Increase your vigilance? Yes.
Cyber crime has crept into our daily news and lives. Even for those who claim they don’t go online with sensitive data, especially financial data, still have to be concerned. Just because you choose not to look at your bank or investment accounts online doesn’t mean the information isn’t out there. It is out there, and available to you anytime you choose to enter the modern world. And because it is out there, and on servers from your providers, it too can be vulnerable to cyber crimes.
When you leave the comfort and protection of your home is where the trouble may really escalate. One caveat here, I am assuming your home network is password protected and your password is complex and changed at least a few times per year. If your home network is not password protected, stop reading this now and go set it up. But when on the road, most people look for wi-fi and typically opt for whatever free wi-fi connection they find.
In general, you shouldn’t use any public Wi-Fi unless there is absolutely nothing on your phone, tablet or computer. For many, that is nearly impossible. Going back to the person who doesn’t use online financial services, it is still possible, maybe even likely, that you will get email from a financial institution from time to time. A clever crook doesn’t need a lot of information, they just need to know where to go and that email may be the only clue they need.
Your best choice for wi-fi when travelling is to use a private network – one where you need a password or some other network provided key to get in. It only takes seconds for a good cyber-criminal to extract what they need of your personally identifiable information. But it would still make sense to log off, and maybe shut down your device when you are done with the network.
When travelling internationally, your antenna should go up even higher. Certain countries like Russia, China, Brazil and Chile have been identified as particularly risky. Look into the FBI and the state department bulletins are posted regarding information about cyber threats for the countries you plan to visit.
If you tend to store a lot of information on your device, you may have higher risk. When travelling to a higher risk location, consider scrubbing unnecessary data from the memory banks of your device. Some travelers utilize a separate machine when travelling without any sensitive data stored within.
As always, make sure your passwords are strong and fresh. Frequent password changes are highly encouraged for everyone, even more so for those who travel to high risk areas. Don’t use the same passwords over and over again. And don’t carry around one of those dumb little notebooks with all of your internet passwords inscribed within.