Ah the beach. What better way to relax than with the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand, the smell of sunscreen? Speaking of sunscreen better put some more on…
You immediately sit up, and begin to panic… your bag is nowhere in sight!
“My phone! My tablet! My credit cards! Everything was in that bag!”
Hopefully this never happens to you. Devices containing PII (personally identifiable information) are lost or stolen every day. Last year more than 200,000 mobile devices were left in US airports alone.
It goes without saying that we need to stay on our toes when traveling. With a little skepticism and a lot of common sense, protecting our devices, and thereby our privacy, is easy. Here are a few simple tips we can all follow that will reduce the risk of losing sensitive data.
Determine how many mobile devices you actually need while on vacation, and leave the rest at home. If that’s not an option, you should keep your devices on you at all times while traveling. Or in this case, if you go to the beach, lock your personal belongings in the safe in your hotel room.
Make it unique.
Put stickers or labels on your devices to make them more distinguishable. If stickers aren’t your forte, purchase a not-so-subtle laptop or phone case. For criminals, it is easy to walk away with your mobile device when it looks just like theirs.
Public WiFi is public.
Try to avoid connecting to free/public WiFi if possible, and if you must, don’t access personal accounts while connected. Personal accounts include any site where your PII, such as your credit card information, is stored. Installing a VPN that encrypts your online communications and ensures your mobile communications stay private is highly recommended.
Social media is actively used by over 2.3 billion people worldwide. Although it is quite tempting to post images on social media while on vacation, consider the other people that can see your posts. Do you really want all of them to know that your house is unoccupied? Think before you post or simply wait until you are back at home to put details about your trip online.
Be aware of your surroundings. Believe it or not criminals like to unwind at the beach too. Even though you are relaxing on vacation, that doesn’t mean everyone else has the same intentions. If you are prone to falling asleep at the beach, hide your devices in your towel or bag and use that as a pillow. If criminals cannot see items of value in plain sight they are less likely to steal from you.
Back it up.
Before you leave the house make sure you backup your devices. Losing your laptop, tablet, or smart phone is inconveniently horrible all in itself; but imagine losing everything you had on it as well. If you backup your devices before heading out the door you will thank yourself later. In a perfect world; you would be able to recover your lost or stolen device, but worst case scenario, you would be able to put all of your data on a new device, and save yourself hours of headaches.
Lock it up.
It is crucial to have a strong password on all of your devices (and accounts). Think of a sequence of numbers or a swipe pattern that is easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess. Most smart phones also offer anti-theft solutions that will track your missing device (and if necessary wipe its contents remotely).
These suggestions all have something in common: they are nontechnical, based on common sense and easy to follow. Traveling comes with some stress but it doesn’t have to include the stress of losing personal items. By following a few simple guidelines we can easily protect ourselves and enjoy our vacations to the fullest. Happy traveling!