With this writing, we’re joyfully en route to a much-anticipated Florida vacation. A sneak peek into our car — and the thousands of other cars headed south on Interstate 4 — offers a reflection of family life today. Mom has her earbuds on and is listening to her newest audiobook, Dad is nodding along with his favorite podcaster over the car stereo, and the teenager in the back seat is making faces into her phone for her Snapchat pals.
Can we get through this vacation without our faces planted in our phones? Can we find ways to unplug more and plug into the moment? That’s certainly our plan. However, each one of us will have to rely on his or her tech from time to time. Frankly, who doesn’t these days?
Our Tech Reality
It’s nearly impossible to vacation minus our electronics, but we’ve agreed to unplug for several reasons. The first reason, of course, is the goal of being present and enjoying our time together. The second reason we want to limit our tech use while traveling is safety. Nothing has the power to obliterate a family vacation faster than stolen data, credit card info, or devices.
5 tips for a more secure family vacation
- Keep devices protected and close. Device theft season is upon us. And, distracted vacationers are the perfect target. So, make sure your smartphone is password protected, security settings are tuned up, and screen lock is on. Keep your phones, tablets, laptops, and handheld gaming devices on your person or locked in a hotel safe when you are away. And, leave at home any electronic equipment you don’t need during your trip.
- Turn on Find My Phone. This is a bigger deal than you might guess. No one plans on losing a phone, but hey, it happens. Have the “don’t lose your phone” conversation with your kids several times but back that up by having everyone in the family turn on his or her lost phone app just in case. Consider an extra layer of protection on mobile devices with mobile security software.
- Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. If you need to send an email, photos, or preserve your family’s data plan by jumping on the hotel’s public Wi-Fi while on vacation, make sure that Wi-Fi is secure and attached to a trusted source. Ask for the establishment’s Wi-Fi and log on to that exact name. Hackers can easily create fake hotspots (called faux towers) with similar names. Also, if you aren’t actively using a hotspot, turn off your Wi-Fi setting as well as “auto-join” setting so that your device is not visible to others. Consider shutting off your Bluetooth setting as well. To be extra sure of security, two tips from the Federal Communications Commission: While using a public Wi-Fi network, periodically adjust your phone settings to forget the network, then log back in again. And, if you want to asses the network’s security, try purposely logging onto the public Wi-Fi using the wrong password. If you can get on anyway, that’s a sign that the network is not secure. The best way to stay safe while traveling may be a Virtual Private Network or VPN. According to one McAfee study, when it comes to Wi-Fi security specifically, 58% of survey respondents know how to check if a Wi-Fi network is secure and safe to use, but less than half (49%) take the time to ensure their connection is secured. Be aware and don’t be in that latter percent.
- Keep software updated. Before you travel, check for any software updates on your devices. Updates often fix security bugs and seal up cracks in the system. Add another layer of protection by safeguarding your devices with security software.
- Avoid accessing financial data. It’s a good idea to get your banking in order before you leave for vacation. Trying to move funds from one account to another or even check your balance can open you up to hackers if you have to do so on a public network.One of the most significant ways you can secure your family vacation is adopting a mindset of awareness. We get excited while on vacation. We want to send those pictures, transfer that money, or get that email out of the way. Very few of us — especially our kids — are concerned about cyber crooks and thieves trying to ransack our well-laid vacation plans. With a few extra minutes invested into your travel plans, you can thoroughly enjoy your family time.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).