Stay Cyber-Safe While Traveling for the Holidays: 11 Things Not To Do

It’s a great time to unplug, but if you’re planning on staying connected, here are some cybersecurity tips during the holidays.

Heading home for the holidays? Whether you’re at your grandparents’ for a week or just stepping in for a belated Thanksgiving meal at your friend’s place, staying cyber-safe is always a top priority. 

Of course, you don’t want to spend your vacation fussing with your passwords. So, here’s an easy-to-share list of things not to do while you’re on the road, in transit, or landed at your parents’ house. 

1. Don’t log in to public WiFi.

Sorry, not even coffee shops, bus station lobbies, or airport terminals—it’s not worth the risk. You can get around this by using a VPN, though. So if you know you’ll be stuck on a layover, consider getting a VPN established before you travel. 

2. Don’t let your credit cards out of sight.

In other words: be cautious with your credit card in person. Cards can be easily swiped and stolen at restaurants, retailers, and airlines. Keep your details close to your chest (literally) if you’re paying with plastic. And stick with credit over debit when possible, as credit card companies are often faster to reimburse you if your card is stolen. 

In the same vein, consider using Apple or Google Pay when traveling for a more secure option. Because Apple and Google Pay rely on your biometrics to approve a transaction—like a facial or fingerprint scan—you’re more in control of what details are being left where. 

3. Don’t shop online carelessly.

Be careful with your card details online, too! If you’ve got Apple or Google Pay enabled, that’s all well and good—but sometimes, having our card details saved in our phones and tablets means it’s even easier for us to make impulse decisions. Around the holidays, social engineering attacks are rampant; it’s an emotionally and financially driven time. So be careful when shopping online; visit only trusted websites and don’t click on pop-ups. 

4. Don’t “give” too spontaneously—and don’t click on unfamiliar links.

Around the holiday season, requests for financial support, charitable causes, and philanthropic funds increase dramatically. But even if it looks like a friend or favorite newsletter is the one reaching out, double-check communications for phishing scams. Don’t let those warm fuzzies steer you wrong! 

5. Don’t trust any random ATMs.

When you’re visiting somewhere away from home, you might find you have unexpected needs for cash and perhaps no branch of your bank. If you’re going to withdraw cash, check all the card scanning equipment you can to make sure nothing looks suspicious. Use an ATM inside a bank when possible, as they have more diligent security. 

6. Don’t give your credit card details out too casually.

It can feel amazing to spontaneously give money to people and organizations asking for donations in front of stores, especially when we’re caught up in the “giving season.” Instead of being casual with your card details this year, stick to cash only to give back while still protecting yourself. 

7. Don’t ignore Multi-Factor Authentication.

We know—traveling is the worst time to forget a password you didn’t think you’d need! A great way to stay secure even if you need to access apps from a new location or device is to enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on every app offering it. 

8. Don’t leave Bluetooth and Wifi on.

When you’re on the move, walking down the street, commuting, or heading across the country, try to be diligent about turning your wifi and Bluetooth off if you’re not actively using them. The goal is to avoid your device connecting automatically to open networks or getting hacked by someone who snags your Bluetooth for nefarious reasons. 

9. Don’t trust your fellow travelers.

Well, we’re being a little bit dramatic, but don’t assume someone at your boarding gate isn’t above swiping your phone or laptop if you leave them out! Keep your devices locked and your other travel materials tucked away. Run a tight ship, and you’ll be much less of a target! 

10. Don’t share your activities with the world.

Especially if you’re a workaholic, be sure you have a camera cover and a removable screen blocker when you’re traveling. It’s easier than you’d think for someone to look over your shoulder and see sensitive information or watch you type in a password. 

11. Don’t forget your charger!

Well, it’s not a huge security concern, but wow, can it be a hassle if you forget a charger while traveling—so pack it with your toothbrush so you don’t forget either one!

Want more tips to keep yourself protected this season (and every season)? Give Stratti a call for a free 15-minute cybersecurity assessment. Have a safe and happy holiday season… and don’t forget to stay cyber-safe!