YOU'RE GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY, SO AT LEAST TRY TO BE SAFE!
Wow is that title a conversation starter! The kind of conversations that involve your teen kids. This one, however deals with your bad behavior. Yes, you, that 30-something soccer mom. And you, that old angry guy yelling at the kids on his lawn. And most definitely you with lives so busy, you’re asking Alexa to add bathroom breaks to your schedule. Yeah, especially you.
So, you’ve found sometime to leave those stresses behind and take a vacation. Good for you! The only thing is, you aren’t really leaving it all behind. No, you’re bringing the devices with you. Laptop, iPad, phone – of course you’re bringing the phone!
Now, I know you’ve been warned. I know you’ve been told not to trust public WiFi. I know you’ve been told not to use that computer in the lobby. I know you’ve been told not to plug into public USB charging outlets.
But here is the deal, you’re going to do it anyway. I know it, and you know it. So lets talk about how to be safe, and learn a few things you can do while traveling to avoid being “had” by the cyber bad guys!
Stay off the Public WiFi if you at all can!
Use the data on your phone’s hotspot if possible. If you must use public WiFi, pay close attention to the name of the network for starters. Is it what you expected it to be called? The bad guys will try to use names that you expect to see, but maybe with a number attached or a slight deviation of some sort. Are there multiple network names that look like they could belong to the business? One of those could be fake!
Make sure you look at the web address (URL) you’re visiting while using public WiFi. Does it start with https or just http? Once upon a time you could trust the ‘s’ to mean it was secure. It’s easy for hackers to get this now, but you should still look for it, and only use sites that have it.
Limit your exposure while you're on there. Do you really need to order a Funko Pop from Amazon while you’re on IHOP’s WiFi? Wait until you get home!
Don't Use Airport or Public USB Charging Stations!
Your phone will plug into a regular wall outlet. Trust me. It comes with a plug that actually goes into the wall to charge. Bring it with you, plug the USB cord into that, and then into the wall.
Anytime you plug into a USB port you could theoretically pass data to something on the other side. Do you really know what that airport USB kiosk has got behind the port? Sure you’re getting a charge, but is someone grabbing info from your phone at the same time? There are devices you can buy for under $10 that block this “juice-jacking”, but seriously, you already own one – it’s a regular wall plug. Use it.
Only use your own device!
I know, gone are most of the hotel “business centers” with public computers you could use. However, I still run across them occasionally, and I do see people on them. Don’t do this. I’m not even going to give you a safe tip for using them. Just don’t.
Make sure your device has the latest End Point protection, and preferably not the free stuff! Yes, free protection is better than no protection. Think about the last garage sale you went to. I bet there was a “free box”. There is a reason why that stuff is in there. Keep it patched too! That simply means keep everything updated; your operating system, your software, your protection – everything!
Utilize a VPN service.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) were originally designed to connect business networks – one location to another, a traveling employee back to the home office, etc. They are still used for that today, but many people are using them to help keep protected when using public WiFi. In short, the VPN will encrypt the data your passing, and help to keep it out of the bad guy’s hands.
Shut off Airdrop.
Airdrop is cool. It allows Apple users to easily transfer files from one device to another. However, if it is set improperly, you could start receiving files from sources you don’t want to. You don’t want Boris the Hacker sending his files to you!
So, turn it off, or at the very least make sure you’re not set to share with “Everyone”. It’s easy on iOS. Just go to Settings, General, Airdrop and turn it off or to “Contacts Only”.
Use as much common sense as possible. None of this is guaranteed to keep you safe. All the protection in the world won’t matter if you find a USB drive on the lobby floor and plug it in just to see what’s on it. It won’t help you if you connect to JoesTatoosWifi, when the actual SSID name is JoesGuestWiFi. Use your noggin and if you’re going to do it anyway (which you are) at least try to be safe!