Today’s traveler has never had it so good. Finding last-minute bargains on hotels and flights, getting instant and accurate travel directions, pulling dining recommendations on the fly, and staying in touch with family and loved ones back home are now as easy as whipping out your smartphone or tablet. Those devices coupled with the power of the internet are a vacationer’s best friend, but also a sort of universal Achilles heel: the digital tethers we rely on for almost everything can also be exploited by thieves who prey on vulnerable travelers.
Intel Security recently conducted a study to better understand the struggle to unplug from digital devices while on vacation. Close to 14,000 people participated globally, reporting on how they go about unplugging from their devices. The results: 55 percent of people in the U.S. who wanted to disconnect from digital devices while traveling reported being unable to do so—while 65 percent of those who did said it helped them enjoy their vacation more.
This isn’t so shocking. There is a huge difference between being in the moment and communicating about the moment. And although the millennial generation is infamous for always being on their phones, this new study revealed that millennials are actually more willing (49 percent) to leave their smartphone at home while on vacation than those in their 40s and 50s (37 percent). When we take a photo of a tropical beach or a beautiful mountainside to share on social media, message a friend about where we are, or flip through the news instead of observing our surroundings, we’re often denying ourselves the opportunity to fully absorb the moment. As a result, the refreshing and stimulating effect of vacations can become diminished.
While many of these reasons are understandable, they’re not all necessary. And even if phones are helpful while away, they can still be overused and can wear down on consumers’ security posture. If you find it difficult to unplug on your next vacation, at least follow these simple tips to stay attentive and safe with your devices on vacation.
Stop making it easy for thieves
More than two decades into the digital revolution it remains a mind-blowing fact that so many of us won’t take the most basic step to protect ourselves. It’s a mistake that even top Silicon Valley executive Mark Zuckerberg and celebrities like Kylie Jenner make.
If you must stay connected on vacation, be sure your device is locked down. Have a strong password and PIN. Add an extra layer of security with biometric authentication, such as using your fingerprint. For sensitive applications like mobile banking, you can often set additional security parameters in the apps themselves.
Limit your mobile use
Sixty-eight percent of people surveyed admitted to checking their email at least once a day. Aside from your information becoming publicly available on social media, other cybercriminal methods, like leveraging fake Wi-Fi networks to intercept passwords, lurk about. Reducing usage is the easiest way to decrease risks and enjoy the trip.
But another, equally insidious, habit of ours is oversharing. Cybercriminals could be tracking vacationers as they happily broadcast their physical location in real time via social network services like Instagram and Facebook. If you’re going to post photos, do it after you return home. And as a good rule of thumb, be sure to turn off geo-tagging in all your posted photos, because even if you upload photos without a caption, if they’re geo-tagged, they can still give your location away.
Backup your data
Having crucial documents, photos, and other sensitive information stored in a secured device at home is important, especially if you’re accessing them away from your home network. Use a cloud-based service or an additional device or external hard drive for backup. These are the type of documents that allow you to recover and take care of crucial errands if your phone should be stolen or compromised.
Before you head off for a little R&R, a little forethought will go a long way to making sure you don’t bring home any unwanted issues when you return home. For email, banking, and social networks, consider enabling two-factor verification so that you are directly alerted if anyone attempts anything suspicious. If you want to be really careful, change all your passwords when you return home. Follow these tips for the well-deserved safe and fun vacation.
*All statistics are based on U.S. specific data sets