7 Cybersecurity Tips for the Family Vacation
Summer’s here! The kids are out of school, the weather is gorgeous, and for many of us that means sun, fun, and family vacations.
But digital security and privacy issues can crop up when you travel—and they’re often things you might not think about (especially since they only come up once or twice a year).
So here are 7 things you can do to make sure your vacation is as safe as it is fun:
Lock it down
Before you leave, take a few minutes to get your digital house in order. Back up your Mac with Time Machine and your mobile devices to iCloud. Be sure to update iOS, macOS, and frequently used apps so that you have the latest security patches. And double check your passwords to make sure they’re strong enough to protect you.
Don’t pay at the pump
Credit card skimmers have been found with alarming frequency at gas pumps nationwide. These devices are made to look like real card readers and are physically embedded in the gas pumps themselves. Skimmers are designed to steal credit card information, which is then used by criminals to make fraudulent purchases. If you’re going to be on the road and filling up the tank more than usual (especially at busy service plazas), consider pre-paying inside or just using cash.
Free WiFi can cost you
When you’re in airports and hotels, it’s tempting to use the free WiFi instead of your data plan. The problem is that this can be unsafe. Poorly secured WiFi networks can allow other people to intercept your data or even access your device. Never use a completely unsecured network (one that doesn’t require a password). And if you absolutely have to connect to guest WiFi, consider using a VPN to make things a bit safer.
Guard your email
When you travel, you may be asked for your email address by hotels, museums, or restaurants, often as part of the registration process or to receive a discount or promotion. Sometimes this is useful, but often it serves no purpose other than to allow marketing departments to deluge you with further offers and promotions—or worse, share your information with third parties. Consider opting out of providing your email address, or create a “burner email” (a throwaway email account that you can later delete) for your travels.
Be app averse
These days it seems like everyone has an app, even if they don’t really need one! When you travel, some new apps can be helpful: city guides and museum apps can genuinely enhance a visit. But many apps have too much access to your personal data, or end up sending you unwanted emails later on. Before you download an app, ask yourself if you really need it—and if you trust the source. And protect your privacy: Don’t use your Facebook or Google account to sign in. Instead, log in directly with your burner email and a strong password.
Prepare for the worst
Travel is hectic, and tourist hotspots are magnets for thieves. It’s very easy to lose a MacBook or iPhone on vacation—or even worse, have one stolen. But Apple has some powerful tools that can help you…if you use them. Before you leave, enable Find My iPhone for all your Apple devices. If your device is lost or stolen, this functionality can be used to track it (even offline) or make it unusable to thieves looking to resell it.
Protect that Mac!
If you’re using a macOS device in unfamiliar places or on public WiFi networks, you should be prepared for the increased security risks. Be sure to have strong third-party antivirus protection on your system. If you don’t have one and are about to leave for your trip, consider downloading the trial version of a reputable AV solution to cover you while you travel (SecureMac offers a 30-day free trial of MacScan 3).
The last thing you want to deal with on vacation is malware, identity theft, and credit card fraud. Follow the tips above to make sure your time off is as stress-free as you deserve—and enjoy your vacation!