From research and booking, through to sharing our experiences on social media, the internet really is a traveller’s best friend. Unfortunately, travellers aren’t the only ones using the internet to make life easier and recent years have seen a surge of cyber criminals targeting travellers with credit card scams, data mining, and – in worst case scenarios – identity theft.
But the good news is that travel security experts are united on the best way travellers can protect themselves without having to rethink their entire holiday. So! here are the simplest, most effective ways to keep cyber criminals at bay while travelling.
Step one: Set up a travel-only email address
Using a special travel-only email address is an easy way to keep all your travel documents and booking information in one place. It will also be less of a crisis if it’s hacked. Yes, you will still probably have to cancel cards and bookings but at least you won’t get home to discover that a phishing email has been sent to all your colleagues. Lastly, a separate email address will be less likely to hold sensitive information like bank statements or passports scans.
Step two: Safeguard your data
When using a third party website to book a flight, hotel, trip, or even dinner, always check how, where, and why they’re storing your data. Under European data protection law full credit card details cannot be stored for longer than 10 days but this changes around the world and is always worth investigating before you book. Or, if you want to regularly store credit card details with a site, make sure that they’re saved in hashed form (every number save the last few saved as a hashtag e.g. card: #### #### #### ##34).
Step three: Make it easy to keep an eye on your credit cards
Many travellers find it impractical or even impossible to regularly log into their online banking while abroad. Signing up for SMS alerts, however, is a great way to keep track of the transactions being charged to your card without worrying about finding a secure internet connection. For those looking for an extra layer of security there are RFID blocking wallets which stop criminals from scanning contactless payment cards through pockets and rucksacks.
Step four: Bring your own hotspot
Unsecured WiFi connections are notoriously vulnerable to cyber criminals and, if you’re planning to make use of social media or sensitive email accounts while abroad, it might be worth bringing your own hotspot. If buying data is going to put you over your holiday budget you can also buy a local SIM (which will at least keep your contacts safe) or use apps that don’t need an internet connection to work.
Step five: Change your passwords
In an ideal world (where all passwords are 36 characters long and update automatically every 24 seconds) we’d all be picking new passwords before and after every trip. However, if you’re not a cyber security-conscious robot, at least make sure to change your passwords when you’re back home. And while you do that, it’s also worth having a look at the locations where you account is still logged in, just to make sure that you recognise all the IP addresses.