The travelling techie: A guide to computer safety while on holiday

As borders slowly start to re-open, Australians can start to book holidays interstate and overseas once again.

It is a huge relief for many, but COVID-19 and other illnesses aren’t the only risks that can ruin your holidays. Criminals exist in every country, just waiting to discover a vulnerability in your security to steal your precious data – and ultimately your money.

From using a VPN service at home or abroad to avoiding public Wi-Fi networks, these are some tips to help keep your data safe no matter where you are.

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Use a VPN to secure your data

Safety is a huge consideration when you are travelling abroad, but access is important as well. Whether you are away for business or pleasure, you are going to need to access essential web services like internet banking and communication platforms like Skype to stay in touch with loved ones. Certain countries will also restrict access to platforms you take for granted like Google and Facebook. Plus you won’t be able to access your streaming services like Netflix with a standard connection either.

In order to access these platforms, as well as others with geo-restricted access, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is recommended. VPN apps can mask your location and make you appear that you are somewhere else. This allows you to gain access to blocked websites while travelling overseas. NordVPN is recognised as one of the best VPNs, with excellent encryption.

VPNs encrypt your connection and prevent Internet service providers (ISPs), hackers, and government agencies from monitoring your device. This is especially critical while travelling since your device may be exposed to public Wi-Fi networks that hackers lurk in when you use your mobile device to connect.

Mobile devices should be locked down

You can usually lock smartphones, laptops, and tablets with a PIN number or a fingerprint. Do this for all your devices. Change the PINs you use regularly while you’re travelling. When you misplace or forget your devices this will act as the first line of defence to prevent a breach of your security.

Be wary of public Wi-Fi

For business or leisure travellers, free Wi-Fi can be very appealing, but can also pose a significant security risk. If you are connecting to the internet at your hotel, ask about its security protocol before using an unencrypted Wi-Fi network. Using free Wi-Fi hotspots and Internet cafes can put you at risk of identity theft; if you must use them, avoid logging into personal accounts or accessing other sensitive data while connected.

Be vigilant with your online shopping while on holiday

There are no holidays for cybercriminals. They take advantage of your busy schedule and let your guard down when you shop online. Many cyber criminals use legitimate-looking websites or social media stores to trick people into giving them their money or personal information. This can be especially pronounced when you are overseas, using unsecured public WiFi networks and looking to purchase from brands that you have never heard of.

Choose well-known, trusted brands for your business. Verify the information on their website to ensure you’re dealing with the official seller rather than a scammer. Look for customer reviews. To learn how your information will be used, read the fine print, including warranties, refunds, and complaints handling.

To steal your money or personal information, scammers can create fake websites and social media profiles. They copy the designs and logos from legitimate businesses to appear more genuine. Online shopping scams cost Australians $7.5 million in 2020 – and that was during lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You should not only ensure your internet connection is secure, but also make sure that the site you’re shopping on uses SSL encryption. Simply look at the address bar of your browser. The address should begin with HTTPS. You should not submit payment information or other personal details to sites without these.

Vacations & Travel produced in partnership with PR Consultancy.

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