My wife had to remind me to look up from my smartphone. We were traveling on the one-lane coastal road that connects Sorrento with Italy’s Amalfi coast. I looked down and saw the Li Galli islands, which according to local legend are where the sirens beckoned the hero of Homer’s Odyssey into the rocks.
In Naples, my iPhone had been my tour guide, allowing me to get pizza recommendations from my friend and then scout out when was the best time to eat, according to the reviews. It had brought us to the Museo Cappella Sansevero to see Veiled Christ and helped us chose a gelateria from the hundreds of options. And now I was plotting our visit to the beachfront town of Positano.
If you’re addicted to your mobile device or checking in online, you know it can improve or ruin your vacation. And missing a great view could be the least of your worries. You should look up from your phone occasionally, but you can stay connected and safe with a few precautions.
1. Lock your devices.
You wouldn’t leave post-it note with your PIN on your ATM card. So don’t invite strangers into your phone to turn off your anti-theft app and start digging through your digital life. Use an unguessable passcode on all your devices and set your devices to lock.
2. Don’t bank or shop on a public computer.
Strange computers can have strange keyloggers or some other malware that could slurp up your information. (If you have to use a public computer to get on Facebook, for instance, use a one-time password.)
3. Clean up your phone.
You hear lots of news reports about how gross and covered with bacteria our phones are. But the inside suffers from the same buildup of crap.
“Phones and computers always store information about what you do. Internet browsers store a history,” Security Advisor Sean Sullivan told us. “Apps create temporary files where they store stuff to help them run faster. A lot of apps and websites have passwords and contact information about you stored.”
4. Assume you’re being watched.
What do using a ATM and logging into your MacBook Pro both say to crooks? I have money that you could take. While you’re sightseeing, you become the sight criminals are seeing. You use a money belt to hold your passports, cash and credit cards — or you should. So use the same caution whenever looking at a screen.
5. Practice safe Wi-Fi and use a VPN.
If you’re using someone else’s Wi-Fi — whether you’re at a motel, coffee shop or a rental you booked through AirBnB — it’s someone else’s Wi-Fi. Even five-star hotel network isn’t 100 percent safe. So don’t expect others to watch out for you.
“You often have to choose between using free Wi-Fi hotspots or paying roaming charges to use your mobile connection,” Sullivan said. “Using a VPN like Freedome gives you a secure funnel that lets you use public Wi-Fi connections without assuming the risks.”
6. Before you go, store your important passwords and PIN codes in a safe location.
Have you ever struggled with forgotten passwords or PIN codes after a relaxing summer break? Why not being a bit smarter this year, so store your passwords in a password manager, and they are there waiting for you when you come back. You can download F-Secure KEY for free for your iPhone, iPad or Android phone here.
[Photo by Giuseppe Milo | Flickr]
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