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Protect Yourself While Travelling

Electronic devices, such as phones, tablets and laptops, are extremely popular targets for both physical and data theft.  These devices offer a centralized source of information, both personal and professional, about you and the organization for which you work or represent.

If you are travelling for work or pleasure and plan on using electronic gadgets, the following tips will help you minimize the risk of cyber theft:

Before you go:

  • Book your trip on a secure and reputable website. Many sites offer low prices, but some deals may be too good to be true. Before you finalize your payment, make sure it is a site you trust, and look for the “https” at the beginning of the URL in the address bar.
  • Protect all your devices with strong passwords or passcodes.  Do not use the same code on more than one device. Learn how to create a strong password.
  • To avoid losing valuable information, backup all important files and store them in a separate location.
  • Update any software and security patches required on your devices.
  • Do some research on the laws and regulations of the country you plan to visit, as you are subject to the laws governing intellectual property, digital information, censorship, and encrypted data in that country. For example, e-books that are legal in some countries may be unlawful in others.

While abroad:

  • Be sure that any device with an operating system and software is fully up-to-date with all recommended security software.
  • When not in use, turn off your devices. Don’t allow them to be in “sleep” mode when they are not in active use.
  • Be sure to password or passcode protect the device. Do not use the same passwords/passcodes that you use on your work and personal devices. The password/passcode should be strong. Learn how to create a strong password.
  • Minimize the data contained on your device. Only include information that you will need for your travel.
  • While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. Laws and policies regarding online security and privacy may be different than in Canada. For example, sensitive business information on your devices may be subject to search at border crossings.
  • Be aware that Wi-Fi hotspots are common targets for identity thieves. These networks may be unsecure and accessible to anyone. Remember that unless you are using a secure Web page, you should never send or receive private information when using public Wi-Fi. The RCMP recommends that you avoid conducting financial or corporate transactions on these networks.
  • When available, use a hard-wired connection rather than public Wi-Fi. It is typically more secure than any free Wi-Fi network.
  • Using a weak password while on a free Wi-Fi network can make your device more susceptible to cyber theft.  As recommended above, strengthen your password by including a variety of symbols, letters and numbers. 
  • If you plan on using Wi-Fi provided by your hotel, ask what security measures are taken to protect the guests’ information.
  • Be aware that free Internet access points are sometimes established for malicious or deceitful purposes. These Internet access points are purposely named to imitate trusted access points. For example, a hotel may have established an access point called: “HotelABC Internet”. A malicious individual may set up a misleading/deceptive access point in the vicinity of that hotel called: “SecureHotelABC Internet”. This access point may even have a higher signal strength than the legitimate one. You should confirm with your hotel the name of any Internet connection that they provide. 
  • Be careful about broadcasting your travel plans. For example, avoid posting updates on your whereabouts on social media sites.  While managing privacy and access settings is a great way to control who sees your page, you can never be sure who could be reading about your whereabouts.
  • Avoid charging your phone or device by plugging it into a computer or other device that you do not control. Malicious software could be transferred when your device is connected.  Plug directly into a wall socket instead.
  • Turn your Bluetooth off when you’re not using it. Some devices allow for automatic connection, meaning that other Bluetooth networks can connect to your device without authorization.
  • Do not let your devices out of your sight.
  • Some devices have an option that will erase all data if the password is repeatedly entered incorrectly. Enable this option so that if you lose the device, that’s all you’ll lose.
  • Wait until you return home to post pictures of your vacation. Avoid giving indicators that you are away and that your home is vacant.

On your return home:

  • Reset all credentials for both remote and local accesses to your device and all accounts, including personal accounts (even if not accessed while abroad) that have similar usernames and/or passwords.  These may include banking, social networking and webmail accounts.

To learn more about destination safety, security, local laws and information for Canadian offices, visit http://travel.gc.ca or download the Government of Canada’s Travel Smart Mobile Web App: http://travel.gc.ca/mobile