The Summer Games are set to kick off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week, and while you may not be heading to the Games yourself, this global event is a timely reminder to be cognizant of your online security while traveling.
Vacations are often a time when people evaluate their own personal security measures. Think about it for a moment. Before packing up for the summer road trip, what security measures do you take and how do they compare to your daily routine? If you are like most people, you take precautionary steps to ensure your home and valuables are protected while you are away. You likely follow practices like setting timers on your inside and outside lighting, putting a hold on the mail or newspaper, having a friend check in a few times while you’re gone, and especially ensuring that all windows and doors are shut and locked with any alarms turned on.
And then when you arrive in a new place, you’re also hyper-aware of your surroundings. You probably stick to an itinerary and areas you’ve researched, and take measures to conceal and protect your personal assets like cash, credit cards, and passport when traveling.
It’s almost as though our sense of security is heightened by a fear of the unknown and unseen. So the next logical question is: Why don’t we apply this same level of vigilance to our online lives? Our entire digital existence is just as much a part of our identity and daily life, yet how often do we apply the level of scrutiny to creating a password that we do to locking down the homestead before a week away? The short answer for most is “probably never”.
The motivation for upping your security when you are away from home is to protect your most valuable and critical assets. We should apply that same motivation to our online lives as well. Your digital existence consists of your most important financial, health, and personal information – data that makes stealing your identity quick and easy.
The FBI estimates that more than two million homes in the United States are burglarized annually. However, it also estimated that nearly one million new malware threats are launched each day and studies show that one in three people can expect to have their identity stolen in their lifetime. The risks to our lives online are now outweighing the threat of traditional theft.
During the 2014 World Cup, Brazil faced nearly 90,000 cyberattacks. So if you’re headed to Rio – or on any extended trip this summer – here’s a checklist to ensure you’re digitally secure while away:
- Back up files and remove any sensitive data from your devices before traveling.
- If you do use a public computer, be sure never to click “Remember Me” when you sign into an account and clear the cache when you’re finished.
- Create copies of important documents, like passports and insurance cards, which you can store in a password manager like LastPass for access to the information when you need it, without having the actual document.
- If you’ve been delaying updates on your device(s), make sure your OS, apps, browsers, and other software is all up-to-date with the latest, before you head out the door. Updates often include important security fixes and enhancements.
- Update your devices with the latest antivirus software so you’re protected from malware that can come in from suspicious emails, external devices, social media, and more.
- Turn on multi-factor authentication for important accounts so it’s not one simple step for hackers to access an account. Your bank accounts, email, Facebook, Twitter, and your password manager are all good places to start.
- Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi networks if at all possible, especially if you need to access valuable financial information.
- Store your passwords in a password manager, such as LastPass, so you’re never without your most important information.
- When you return and are back on a secure connection, change any passwords you used while abroad.
In addition to securing home before you travel, secure your digital life as well. With these tips you’ll ensure your most sensitive information is safe and protected, so you can focus on your next excursion, not who might be stealing your data.