Keep Your Data Safe While Unplugging on Vacation

When you are packing your bags for a long weekend break or a family holiday, do you pack all your devices too or do you say to yourself “I will not connect to the internet at any cost. I am going to be unplugged this holiday?”

Many of you, I am sure, will opt for the latter as everyone needs some ‘me-time.’ But what about your smartphone and its security? A recent study conducted by McAfee shows 54 percent of Indians surveyed are not willing to leave their smartphones behind while on vacation. What’s more, 38 percent who went on the vacation with the intent to unplug were not successful in doing so!

The global study by McAfee, titled “Digital Detox: Unplugging on Vacation,” aims to better understand consumers’ digital behaviors while traveling and to help provide education on potential security risks. The study, which covered nearly 14,000 people across 14 nations, reveals that a huge majority of Digital Age Indians (84%) connect to the internet while on vacation. This leads them to use unsecured, public Wi-Fi oblivious to the potential risks.

Consider this, over one-third of those surveyed in India shared their personal data even when they realize that this will make them vulnerable, the highest amongst the 14 countries surveyed. Further, India ranked the second-worst globally in digital detox count, with 43 percent admitting they cannot stay off social media even during vacations. Hello, you are on a holiday remember??

Tourists are vulnerable, away from their regular environment, and cyber criminals could exploit these situations to hack phones, implant malware or read and copy data. So while an unaware tourist is happily uploading the latest holiday selfie or making online payments, a virtual thief might be quietly stealing sensitive data from the phone.

Hence it becomes necessary to know when and how a traveler can become the victim of a digital theft and pick up a few tips to stay safe during travels:

  1. Use a security software on your device: I put this on the top of my list. Just as you protect your laptop or computer, so you need to protect your smartphone too. I strongly recommend the use of a comprehensive security suite for this.
  2. Share over secure Wi-Fi for safe sharing: Yes, I know it feels imperative to share all that you are seeing and doing with your loved ones in real time. But why not enjoy every moment of your vacation and then share once back in the safe Wi-Fi zone of your home? This way, the cyber criminals will not be aware of your plans and locations.
  3. Backup your data: Storing crucial documents, photos, and other sensitive information in another place is important, especially if you’re accessing them away from your home network. Use a cloud-based service, or use an additional device or external hard drive for backup. These allow you to recover and take care of crucial errands if your phone should be stolen or compromised.
  4. Keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off: You do not want to be caught unaware by a cybercriminal. Connect to public Wi-Fi minimally and only if necessary, like say you need to send an urgent e-mail or check maps. Delete all public Wi-Fi networks stored after usage.
  5. Two-step authentication: In case financial transactions including netbanking becomes necessary, ensure you have multi-factor authentication enabled and change passwords and PINs once back home.

Enjoy your vacation, find your inner peace, and open your minds to the world. But ensure you keep your data to yourself, safe and secure.

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