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Protect Your Data: Pack Sunscreen and Cybersecurity When Vacationing

Tue, 12 Mar 2019

The Canadian winter is dragging this year making a southern escape destination for March Break look appealing. You're thinking palm trees, sandy beaches, and poolside cocktails – I bet cybersecurity hasn't even crossed your mind. But the reality is your phone will also be there and your son will have his tablet so he can Google every potentially poisonous plant, animal or insect you encounter. It's not enough to get travel cases that protect your technology from the sand and the surf, you have to take cybersecurity measures to keep your devices and your data safe as well. Pack Sunscreen and Cybersecurity When Vacationing

Cybersecurity vacation spoilers

The following cybersecurity spoilers can diminish your sun-soaked vacation:

Physical Theft: It’s common knowledge that travellers make likely prey for thieves. You aren’t familiar with the area you’re visiting, perhaps don’t speak the language, or you are so engrossed by the beauty of the place you’ve travelled to you aren’t paying close attention to your belongings. Maybe you've brought a laptop with you, and you've left it in the hotel room. Phones, tablets, and laptops contain sensitive data that can lead to identity theft. Practicing good cybersecurity starts by keeping your physical devices guarded. 

Public Computers: The hotel provides public computers to make guests’ lives easier. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that because the hotel provides them that they’ve employed proper cybersecurity to protect their guests. The public computers may not have the latest operating system updates or have any anti-virus software installed which makes them vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. Cybersecurity threat agents could have infected the public computers with malicious software or viruses and be waiting for unsuspecting tourists to access sensitive data, like placing an e-transfer online to give them more spending money. The computer could have keylogger malware installed on it which captures a user’s keystrokes and sends the information to cybersecurity criminals. Keylogger malware can give cybersecurity threat agents personal data, such as credit card numbers, passwords and birthdates. The more they know about you, the easier it is to commit identity theft. 

Unsecured Wireless Networks: This is the same as unsecured public Wi-Fi at home, always use with caution. Public wireless hubs are really convenient, especially when travelling on limited data plans, but they are not secure, and cybersecurity criminals can use them to hack your internet-enabled devices. Any information that you send via an unknown network could be intercepted by a third-party. Wireless hubs are popping up all over from airplanes to parks, so be wary when you connect. People intending to commit identity theft who want to steal your data may even go so far as to establish free internet access points disguised to look trustworthy. Be sure to always confirm the name and cybersecurity of an Internet connection before logging on. Avoid accessing sensitive data, like banking, from unsecured networks or this vacation might cost you more than was in the budget. Stolen data leads to identity theft.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth connects two devices via short-range radio frequency. The user has to give permission for another device to communicate before data can be exchanged. But, once the user confirms the relationship, data can be transferred back and forth between devices with little to no user confirmation. Use caution when linking with other users or apps when Bluetooth is involved, and make sure your Bluetooth settings aren’t set to automatic connections. It’s best to disable Bluetooth networking while you’re away to prevent malicious connection attempts and protect your data and prevent identity theft. 

Protect Your Data

Cybersecurity preparations before you go

Getting your family out the door and to the airport feels like the start to the first Home Alone movie. In the hustle and bustle of packing and travel preparations, take a few minutes to practice cybersecurity and ensure any devices you’re taking away with you are safe, and your data is protected.

Update: Update your software. If you’re taking phones, tablets and laptops, make sure the operating system software and apps are all updated. This ensures that any cybersecurity patches have been installed and you’re better able to defend against malware. Make sure the anti-virus software you have is also updated (that way your device is protected against new viruses).

Get fired up: Install a firewall on your tablets and laptops.

Back it up: While you practice your Cha Cha Slide for the poolside dance party, you should also practice backing up your information (just in case). “Take it back now y’all” – all your contacts, all your photos, back all your data up to another device (that’s staying put) or to a cloud service.

Put a lock on it: Make sure your device locks when it’s not in use. Even if you step away momentarily, that’s enough time for someone to steal your data and get all the information they need to commit identity theft. Always use strong PINS and passwords – biometric ID (like fingerprints) is even better.          

Name it: Put your name and the name of where you’re staying on an accessible part of your device. If you lose it, maybe it will find its way back to your hotel. Do not put any information that can help someone commit identity theft anywhere easily accessible (protect your sensitive data).

Extra-beefy cybersecurity: Some devices have incorrect password options that you can enable. For example, if the password is incorrectly entered ten times, then all the data on the phone gets erased. Some smartphones can be locked remotely through anti-theft and cloud software. If you have these security options, enable them this will protect your data and decrease the chances of identity theft if your device gets stolen.

No bragging: Do not make a grand announcement of your travel plans on social media. Not only is online bragging a great way to encourage criminals to break while you’re gone, but it’s mean to all of your snow-bound friends.

Cybersecurity while you’re away

Ahhhhh, you’ve arrived in the sunny south. You can feel the Canadian ice melting away from your bones. You break out your floral shirt, throw on some flipflops and head to the lagoon shaped pool. The resort is perfect, but don’t be tricked into thinking that their cybersecurity is perfect. Always maintain good cybersecurity while in a tropical paradise.

Charge safely: Don’t charge your phone or tablet on computers or devices that you don’t control (like the hotel’s convenient docking stations). While away, wall sockets are your safest bet because an outlet won't commit identity theft or steal your data.

Lockdown: If you have a safe in your hotel room, use it. Even to go electronics free (enabling two hands) for the dinner buffet. Meal times are ideal for hotel room theft, so lock up your devices.

Eyes on the prize: Put your devices in your carry-on. Checking devices in your baggage and you don’t know where it will end up. Keeping devices in sight is safest.

Disconnect: Turn off your auto-connection, so you aren't seeking out and automatically connecting to wireless networks. This makes it more difficult for threat agents to connect to your device, steal data and commit identity theft.

Question everything: Be especially wary of clicking on links or downloading anything while away, especially from unknown sources. Phishing schemes are the easiest way for cybercriminals to install viruses or malware on your devices, enabling them to steal your data.

Sketch Artist: Don't do anything sketchy online. Different countries have different laws concerning online behaviour, and you don't want to have local law enforcement banging on your hotel room door.

Private eyes are watching you: Assume that everything you are doing online is being scrutinized. This is not a conspiracy theory. To maintain sound cybersecurity it's safest not to do anything, or access any data, that you wouldn’t want an unauthorized third party to view.


Protect yourself from data and identity theft on vacation. That means making good choices about cybersecurity and protecting your data and devices. This March Break, travel cybersecurity-safe.

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