Privacy on Your Vacation Begins at Home

Security & Privacy, Tips & Tricks

Even a hotel room can be hacked.

Earlier this year F-Secure researchers Tomi Tuominen and Timo Hirvonen revealed a hack that could have allowed them to sneak into hotel rooms all over the world. Instead, they disclosed the vulnerability to the manufacturer and helped fix it. Needless to say, not everyone has Tomi and Timo’s good intentions.

Almost everything is becoming hackable, so protecting our privacy requires taking proactive steps. And when you’re traveling, those steps begin before you even leave your home.

Reduce your vulnerabilities by taking these precautions before you take off this summer.

1. Get your VPN ready and keep it on.
If you’re planning on using Wi-Fi on your vacation, even if it the “secured” network offered in your hotel, you should be using a VPN at all times on all your devices. “Without a VPN, it’s trivial for anyone else using the same Wi-Fi to see big parts of your traffic,” Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer, said. You may assume we’re just putting this tip first because we make F-Secure FREEDOME VPN, which you can try for free in F-Secure TOTAL, but a VPN is at the top of the list of any list of expert suggestions for travel privacy. One of the big reasons we started making FREEDOME is because our experts wanted a VPN they could trust when they were traveling. They don’t leave home without it.

2. Set up two-factor authentication using a third-party app.
To protect your data, should have two-factor authentication on all your most important accounts if it is available. Facebook, Google and other sites may recognize you’re traveling and trigger additional verification steps. Our experts recommend an app like third-party solution Google Authenticator because it’s more secure than SMS and it still works even if you change phone numbers or phones.

3. Hold off sharing your vacation plans and images on social media until you’re home.
This recommendation may sound as if it is coming from the distant past before the creation of Instagram, but it’s still good basic security to not let people know that your home, or your parents’ home, is going to be empty for a while. At the very least consider shutting off geotagging on your phone so you don’t get unwanted visitors while you’re on the beach.

4. Put a passcode on everything.
Don’t go to the airport without putting a strong, unique passcode on your phone, tablet or laptop. The most likely way your device will be compromised is if you leave it somewhere. A difficult-to-crack passcode will help you limit your loss to the price of your gear.

5. EXPERT TIP: Don’t bring your laptop or phone.
You may be forced to disclose your passcode to custom officials. If you’re very concerned about your privacy, consider using a more disposable device like a Chromebook or a burner Android with just for traveling. Go the extra mile and set up “fake” accounts for your travel purposes where officials can’t dig into years of your social media and email activity.

And what should you do when you get into your hotel room and you’re worried about hotel hackers?

Use the door chain when you’re in the room and when you’re not, take your valuables with you. Our experts don’t even trust the hotel safe. Why? The safe has default password and lots of people who aren’t you know it.

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