August 5, 2017

Practice Safe Internet outside your Home or Office

Practice safe Internet while you're on the road

When you take an out of town trip, there are plenty of ways of getting yourself into trouble.  Using public WIFI, browsing unsecured websites and posting lots of geotagged photos or location updates on social media.  Here are some tips to keep your computer, online account, and even your home safe while you're on the road.

The dangers with Public and FREE WIFI

Using that free WIFI provided by a local coffee shop can be a huge risk if you don't adequately protect yourself after you've connected.  You never know what type of security measures, if any, that free WIFI network is providing.  It's better to assume that there isn't anything stopping the guy sitting next to you from "sniffing," which means collecting, the network traffic generated by your computer.  When you browse the Internet, log into your email account or bank website, the traffic to and from your computer can be easily captured, giving the "sniffer" your usernames and passwords.

Now imagine you're in another state or country and someone malicious has your email account.  They can email your friends, relatives, and coworkers, pretending to be you, and beg for money or sensitive information like your social security number.  You get the idea, and it never ends well when your email, bank or other online resources become compromised.

How do I secure my traffic while on public WIFI?

The best way is to establish a virtual private network (VPN) as soon as you make that WIFI connection.  When your computer creates a VPN, all the traffic to and from your computer is encrypted, so that even if there is a sniffer, the traffic he's capturing is unreadable.  To add to this layer of security, ensure that the websites you log into have the green padlock which means they've enabled HTTPS Secure Socket Layer (SSL).

There are plenty of virtual private network services out there, and you can also check with your company to see if they have something in place you can use.

What you shouldn't do while traveling

Post a lot of geotagged photos or share location updates on social media. Criminals love to monitor social media sites, and when they know someone is out of town, they can take advantage of the situation in a couple of ways.  First, they could reach out to your family or friends and claim you are their hostage.  This situation occurs if they know you're on a camping trip or somewhere you can't communicate with the outside world. They'll demand a small amount of money that can be easily wired and use fear tactics to keep them on the phone.  Secondly, when your out of town and the criminals have a right idea your house/apartment is left unprotected, they can more confidently break into your home to steal all your belongings.

To ensure this doesn't happen to you the next time you take that two week trip to Europe or go skiing in the Alps, delay posting your pictures until you're on your way back home from the airport.

Leave your devices unattended. Leaving your cell phone or laptop unattended in a public place is a huge no-no.  Their easily stolen, even if you turned your back and walked away a few feet.  While most of us have security password, pattern swipes, pins or other means of locking the device, there are ways around them.

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