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Cybersecurity tips for travel

Planning a trip this summer? Be sure to keep your digital information secure.

By Corey Oxenbury

June 6, 2019

Overhead shot of man typing on laptop; words Business travelers are some of the most at-risk victims of cyberattacks. A recent IBM Security report found that while 70% of Americans engage in high-risk behavior while traveling – such as connecting to public Wi-Fi, charging a device using a public USB station or leaving auto-connect enabled – only 50% believed they would be targeted for cybercrimes.

Traveling can make people more vulnerable to security threats than they are at home, the report said. While people may protect their devices at home, they tend to opt for convenience over security when traveling. For example, business travelers are 10% more likely to engage in risky behaviors than personal travelers, according to the report.

“Traveling has always been when people are more vulnerable,” Caleb Barlow, vice president of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security, said in a statement. “People carry a gold mine of data when traveling including passports, payment information and detailed travel itineraries. When placed in the hands of a cybercriminal, all of this information can be patched together into a complete picture of the traveler’s life to inform identity theft, initiate spearphishing attacks or be sold on the dark web.”

If you plan on traveling this summer, whether for business or personal reasons, IBM Security offers the following tips to keep you secure on the road:

  • Monitor loyalty rewards: Your loyalty information and rewards are as good as cash to cybercriminals. Monitor your accounts for unusual activity, use strong passwords, and set up multifactor authentication where possible.
  • Choose your Wi-Fi with care: It’s easy for cybercriminals to host Wi-Fi networks in public places to collect data such as credit-card information and more. Even legitimate networks hosted by establishments can be open to digital eavesdropping. Avoid public networks if you can, and consider using a VPN for additional security.
  • Bring a backup battery: Cybercriminals can modify USB connections – including free charging stations – to download data from connected devices or install malware without your knowledge. Bring your own battery bank to recharge your devices, or use traditional wall plugs instead of USB ports.
  • Turn off unneeded connectivity: If you don’t need connectivity, turn it off. This includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and auto-connecting to networks.
  • Shred your tickets: The little scraps of paper from your tickets, boarding pass, luggage tag or hotel folio may seem useless and harmless after you complete your trip, but savvy criminals can gather a lot of information about your identity and loyalty-rewards program from them. Be sure to save them until you can destroy them appropriately by shredding.
  • Be smart when paying: Don’t use your debit card at stores or restaurants that may not have the security to protect their point-of-sale systems. If you use an ATM, select one inside a bank branch or inside an airport, where the chance of tampering or skimmers on the ATM is reduced.

To learn more, Information Technology Services recommends reading the full IBM Security report.

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