It’s important to note, especially this season as you may be traveling around the country, that smart phones, tablets and the like ARE computers, and they are even more susceptible to security risks than a full-fledged PC. The United States Department of Homeland Security offers some tips for keeping your device (and the information on it) safe this holiday.
Do not use public Wi-Fi networks
With mobile devices, the internet is at our fingertips. Anytime you’re shopping or traveling, be aware of the wireless network you’re using when accessing the web and completing online transactions. Avoid using open Wi-Fi networks to conduct personal business, banking or shopping online. These unsecure networks (like those at airports, coffee shops, etc.) are prime locations for crooks to target in hopes of intercepting sensitive information from unsuspecting mobile users. If you have no other choice but to use your phone to buy something or check your bank account balance at that moment, turn off Wi-Fi and utilize your mobile device’s cellular data Internet connection.
Turn off Bluetooth when not in use
While Bluetooth-enabled accessories like earpieces or keyboards can certainly be helpful, especially while traveling, they pose a great threat to security when out in the open. Cyber criminals can pair with your phone’s open Bluetooth connection when you are not using it and steal personal information—therefore, always turn off Bluetooth on your devices when the setting is not in use.
Be cautious when charging
Don’t connect your device to any charging port that you do not control yourself. Charging stations at airports or computer USBs at a local library may seem like great options for charging in a pinch, but this can allow external software to interact with the phone and possibly gain access to your sensitive data or install malware. If you don’t want to carry a wall-plug charger on your person at all times, charging travel packs are small and affordable alternatives.
Don’t fall victim to phishing scams
Home or away, be wary of emails from retailers that may seem too good to be true (because *hint* they probably are). If a link from what initially seems like a legitimate source appears fishy, do not click on it! Also, stay vigilant about what information you provide when conducting online transactions—online retailers won’t need your Social Security number, for example!
Now that you know some of the risks involved in traveling with a personal internet-enabled device and some precautions you can take to counter them, you’ll need to know what to do in the event these defenses were unsuccessful in keeping your information secure:
If you notice that one of your online accounts has been hacked, call the bank, store or credit card company owning your account. Reporting fraud in a timely manner helps minimize the negative, as well as lessen your personal liability. You should also change your account passwords for any online services associated with your compromised mobile device, ensuring you are doing so while using a different computer that you control.
Of course when walking around with a mini-computer in the palm of your hand, you also need to be aware of the physical security of your device: never leave it unattended, and keep it in the same pants pocket or area of your bag every time. The next step—and this is an important one—relax, have a happy holiday and enjoy a great trip!
Source: United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team