The holidays are arguably the most magical time of year. From the twinkle lights and festive cookies, to cozy sweaters and hot chocolate around the fire, it’s hard not to get into the spirit. Of course, the holidays aren’t all joy and glee—they also bring more stressful moments, such as holiday travel. Between Christmas and New Years, travel increases a whopping 23%. Cybercriminals take notice of this spike, and target vulnerable travelers who are connecting to public Wi-Fi and practicing other unsafe mobile habits. Whether you’re going somewhere new and exotic, or visiting far away family, it’s important to keep your personal devices safe during your trip.
Be aware of these three common vulnerabilities, and know how to prevent your device from landing in a scrooge’s hands this holiday season.
- Take Charge of Your Chargers. You forgot your phone charger at home, and you’re now stuck with a three hour layover. A public charger seems like the most convenient solution (and it will save you the trouble of having to buy another one at an overpriced airport shop). However, USB chargers can be built with malicious code in them, which means that your phone could begin installing malware the second you connect to an unknown USB. Instead, make sure you’ve packed at least one extra charger to avoid the potential threat.
- To App, or Not To App? Many airports now offer specific apps for mobile devices, which can update passengers on their flight status, provide maps of the gates (so you can grab your pre-flight coffee) and provide a login for other perks. If you decide to download the app, make sure you do it before leaving for the airport, when you can be at home with a secure connection. It’s also important to be cautious of which app you are downloading. A search for “SFO” in the app store will bring up several options, only a fraction of which are actually the safe, secure apps that have been sanctioned by the airport.
- Say No to Public Networks. It can be tempting to do anything necessary to avoid excessive data charges while traveling, particularly while overseas. However, leeching off of public Wi-Fi could end up costing you more in the long run. Cybercriminals target travelers by creating “open” and “free” Wi-Fi connections that have secretly been hacked. An unsafe Wi-Fi connection could lead to loss of private data, such as credit card numbers, bank information, and personal addresses, as well as cyberspying. Make sure any connection you make with your mobile device is secure, and it’ll be easy travels throughout the season.
Whether you’re off to Hawaii, Europe, or grandma’s house, it’s important to pay attention to how your device is used during travel time. Always think twice before connecting to Wi-Fi on your mobile device, and never, ever do so while on free, public Wi-Fi. Remember that credit cards are usually more secure than debit cards during your after-Christmas shopping spree. For an added layer of security on your mobile device, download McAfee® Mobile Security, available for both Android and iOS.