Packing up for summer vacation? There’s an app for that—multiple apps, actually, including the top five recommended by the guru of credit card cognoscenti, The Points Guy. Personal hygiene and clothing tips rank high on these thou-shalt advisories. Alas, cyber hygiene tips are not included in these curated packing lists! Here are a few recommended security essentials for peripatetic peace of mind:
Safe Connections. Public WiFi hotspots are notoriously convenient platforms for casual conversation—and digital eavesdropping. And how robust (and non-guessable) are those hotel passwords really? Let’s see, if my assigned password is [hotelnameROOM#] could my neighbor’s possibly use the same format? VPN providers like NordVPN offer affordable services for creating an encrypted communications tunnel to protect your messages—with software downloadable to multiple devices.
Power Bars. Free power-charging stations in airports are so tempting! They can also be used as a two-way tool: you stoke your mobile device and the stations extract your device’s data. Not part of the plan—and no user license agreement (ULA) to warn you of that possibility. Invest in a data blocker to prevent unintentional data exchanges.
Sleep Masks. For you as well as for your mobile devices! Turn off Bluetooth services when not in use. Although Bluetooth shares certain features with near field communication (NFC) technology, Bluetooth signals range from about 10 to 20 meters (for Class 2 devices like most headsets/headphones) to 100 meters (for Class 1 devices). Also turn off location services.
Invisibility Cloak. I want what Harry had—as in Harry Potter and not as in When Harry Met Sally. You will not lose your vacation bragging points by waiting to post pictures until you’ve safely returned. Turn off location services for your apps unless you are actively using them to find your way. Even though you’ve worked through the 18 recommended setting changes for Facebook and other social media platforms, there is no guarantee that your friends are as circumspect. Also, with business email compromise (BEC) perpetrators effective use of social engineering tactics to schedule attacks while business executives are traveling, why give others the heads-up that you are out of town?
Bug Bomb. Returning home to hungry fleas (I lived in Maryland and our golden was a magnet) is a travel buzz-kill. Disconnect internet routers and other connected devices (OK, not your “smart” refrigerator) when you’re away. This eliminates any possibility of remote hacking, interrupts any possible use of your router by global botnets (it happens ), and also reduces your electric bill by disabling energy zombies.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Yes, MFA really helps, even if you opt for the text-based (SMS) verification approach, which is maligned for being less robust than a smart token. Ideally, you’ve already adopted MFA in your work environment so using it while on vacation will just seem normal and no-hassle.
Enjoy safe summer travel!
Kevin Townsend (15 July 2019), Security Week. https://www.securityweek.com/failures-cybersecurity-fundamentals-still-primary-cause-compromise-report