Don’t Let Hackers Sink Your Family Vacation Plans

By on May 31, 2016

Family Vacation PlansPlanning a family vacation has evolved to an art form. There’s an app for everything from booking flights, discovering deals, and finding activities off the beaten path. This digital evolution of the family vacation brings with it both good and bad news for families. While technology has opened up a whole new world of fun, adventure, and efficiency, it’s also opened up more and more personal information to hackers relying on distracted travelers.

If your information is on it — be it a phone, laptop, or even a boarding pass — hackers want it. Hackers even target boarding passes because the barcode includes a passenger’s frequent flyer numbers, phone number, and future travel plans.

Digital safety travel tips:

1. Backup devices before you go. Be sure to back up your family devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Backing up your devices will protect your work, photos, and stored information in case of a lost or stolen device while on vacation.

2. Password protect and lock. If you aren’t in the habit of locking your device, now is a great time. Securing your devices is especially important if you do most of your banking on your phone. Go into your settings and choose either a numeric password or fingerprint lock. Use strong PINs and be sure you understand how to create a robust password.

3. Find my phone. Download and turn on your Find My Phone app on your iPhone. That way, if your device gets stolen or lost, it can be tracked. The equivalent app for Android is Find My Lost Phone.Family Vacation Plans

4. Bank smart abroad. The temptation to use public wifi while traveling is huge especially when it comes to increasing our spending limit. Banking apps can put you at risk when traveling. If possible, carry travelers checks or cash and avoid using public networks for banking transactions. If you need to transfer funds, keep your bank’s 1-800 number handy and have a real person transfer the funds. Nothing will end your vacation faster than getting your funds depleted by a hacker.

5. Invest in a document shredder. Discard any old boarding passes or airline tickets when you return home. While you are at it, take the time to shred any old credit card bills and correspondence that includes personal information of any kind.

6. Print important docs. Increasingly, all of our important documents are paperless but just to be safe, print out travel documents, confirmations, important phone numbers, and insurance papers. You never think you will lose your device — until you lose your device. If you don’t want to print everything, simply email a Key Documents file to a friend who can easily get that information back to you if you are abroad.

7. Reset your smartphone. Traveling to another country — or even coming close to an international border like Mexico — can spike your data usage in a second and open up your device to a third party. Take the time to disconnect roaming and Bluetooth when you travel, both located in your phone Settings. This will ensure you don’t exhaust your data and more importantly that a criminal can’t locate your smartphone or device.

8. Discourage geo-tagging, check-ins, and social. Teens love to post their adventures and check into interesting places with check-in apps. Discuss the risks of doing this in a foreign country or an unfamiliar place. Encourage everyone to back-tag photos when they return home. To turn off location services, simply go to your phone Settings, hit the Privacy tab, click Location Services to off.

9. Track the whole fam. On the physical safety side, there are several popular apps such as MamaBear, Family Tracker, or Life360 that will bring you added peace of mind while on vacation. The apps will help you locate your family members real-time and specify their exact address.

MamaBear app
MamaBear app

10 Think before you link. It’s exciting to post updates of beautiful places and summer adventures, however, before connecting to a public hotspot, slow down and do it right. Confirm the name of the network and don’t skip the specified login instructions. Read every screen before you click. Hackers have been known to circumvent login procedures to detour users. Try not to use unsecured wireless networks in cafes, libraries, and public parks and avoid computers in hotel business centers if at all possible since they may not have updated anti-virus software or firewalls, making them easily hackable. It’s important to A) make sure the network is secure and B) make sure it’s password protected. Here’s a wifi primer on how to work remotely and keep your data safe.

11. Keep devices close. While you are focused on jumping in the pool, playing frisbee on the beach, or getting up to capture the perfect photo, criminals are focused on how to grab any unattended devices or bags. Carry your smart phone in a fanny pack that stays around your waist, be sure to secure external USB and hard drives, and pay a little extra for a room safe in your hotel.

12. Monitor account balances. Never assume your credit card transactions are safe—especially on vacation. Crooks don’t go around in striped shirts and face masks. Sometimes the thief is a waiter or waitress, hotel staff, or even fellow travelers you might befriend. Don’t be paranoid but do pay attention to account balances and personal possessions.

13. Use comprehensive security software. Software such as  McAfee LiveSafe™  can help protect all your computers and devices from viruses or malware. Also, make sure to turn on your computer’s built-in firewall, which monitors incoming and outgoing connections. This makes it more difficult for an attacker to gain access to your machine.

Cyber crooks and everyday criminals are banking on you letting down your guard this summer. Stay one step ahead of their schemes and have a fun and fabulous family vacation this year.

Has a hacker or thief ever ruined your vacation plans? Please share your summer vacation stories (and cyber lessons learned) in the comment section.

About the Author

Toni Birdsong

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist for McAfee. She is an author, speaker, and cyber savvy mom of two teenagers (much to their dismay). As a family safety evangelist for McAfee, she focuses on online safety and often speaks to educators, parents, and teens about dodging the dangers online. She is the co-owner of ...

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