Last year, 12.7 million Americans had their data stolen. Security experts warn that traveling with smartphones, tablets, and laptops heightens the risk. “You face an increased number of vulnerabilities when you travel,” says Eva Valasquez, of Identity Theft Resource Center. “The biggest is public WiFi.” Here’s how to keep your data safe while on the road.
Choose Networks Manually
“People are too relaxed about connecting automatically to WiFi, which can expose you to rogue networks,” says Jason Eaddy, an expert at security and forensics firm Elysium Digital. For instance, be wary of a network called Starbucks when there’s no Starbucks nearby.
Use Your Phone’s Data Instead
Even if you’re logged on to a hotel’s or cafe’s WiFi with a password, it’s possible hackers can access your devices. Data transactions on cell networks are generally more secure. You can tether your laptop to your phone or create a hotspot with your phone (plans are sold through your carrier) and connect to that.
Use a Password Manager
Most experts recommend using a service like 1Password or LastPass, which allows you to remember only one pass phrase for its site but generates long, complex passwords for every other site you use — meaning if one website gets compromised, the password won’t expose you on others.
Smarten Up Your Web Browser
“Get a plug-in called HTTPS Everywhere on Firefox and Chrome, which encrypts your data,” says Eaddy. You can also get a VPN service, which prevents middlemen from monitoring traffic. It’s available from $5 per month from NordVPN or Private Internet Access.