Winter Travel Safety: Technology

It’s rare to see travelers without some kind of electronic device helping them through a busy day of flight times, contact numbers, hotel addresses and step-by-step driving directions. They’ve become part of our every-day, and we’ve learned to depend on their immeasurable assistance during our travels. But just as airports, hotels and transportation companies have begun to accommodate your devices by offering online reservations/check-ins and “easy online payments”, criminals have begun to exploit theses conveniences for their own gain (and your loss!).

It’s imperative to understand the importance of maintaining proper security while using your smartphone, laptop, tablet or other modern “smart” device during travel.

Social Media:

Watch what you share on your social media accounts. It may seem like common sense not to post your plans of leaving your home unattended, but each year thousands of people do, some without even realizing it.

A simple “Can’t wait to hit the slopes” comment is enough to draw dishonest attention. A quick selfie of the family outing can mean coming home to a burglarized house. As a rule, don’t post your travel plans and keep those vacation pics private until you get home.

And if you think only your “friends” can see your posts, you may need to investigate your privacy settings and learn a bit more about how that social media outlet displays your information. In many cases, your photos and information are just a few steps away from anyone who is actively seeking you.

Public WiFi:

Many cafés, hotels, airports, and other public places offer wireless networks you can use to get online. It’s important to remember these two things:

  • Wi-Fi hotspots often aren’t secure. If you connect to a public Wi-Fi network and send information through websites or mobile apps, the info might be accessed by someone it’s not meant for. If you use a public Wi-Fi network, send information only to sites that are fully encrypted and avoid using apps that require personal or financial information. If you are unsure if the site is encrypted, you can check here.
  • That Wi-Fi network might not belong to the hotel or airport. Scammers sometimes set up their own “free networks” with names similar to or the same as the real ones. Check to make sure you’re using the authorized network before you connect. If you are unsure about this, the best way is to ask the customer service of the location what the exact name of the network is.

Traveling Abroad:

While traveling in and through certain countries, your personal privacy may be compromised. Even private spaces such as hotel rooms, rental cars, and taxis may be subject to video, audio, or other monitoring. This type of surveillance may be able to track your whereabouts, what you may be doing, what’s on your electronic device, and what you may be entering into it. Conversations either in person or on a phone may be monitored. The following tips can help you keep a safe handle on your security while visiting countries that don’t follow the same privacy policies that the United States has in place.

  • Keep your tablet or laptop locked with a good password, newly created for your trip. If possible, use a prepaid “throw away” cell phone purchased specifically for the trip.
  • Be sure that any device with an operating system and software is fully patched and up-to-date with all institutional recommended security software.
  • Whenever possible, shut the device off (not just in “sleep” or “airplane mode”).
  • Keep your personal device(s) on you at all times, do not check them with luggage and do not assume they will be safe in your hotel room or in a hotel safe.
  • Never use shared computers in cyber cafes, public areas, hotel business centers, or devices belonging to other travelers, colleagues, or friends.
  • If you absolutely must use a public computer (see above) always remember to log out completely and never choose “remember this password” options.

If you’re planning a traveling adventure, be sure to ask your Farm Bureau Agent about the special savings members receive on a host of travel related services and products.