The world is finally opening up, and travel has become an option again for many Australians. Whether you are just travelling interstate or planning that long-overdue trip abroad, it is important to ensure you are safe while travelling.
In the new world, that means ensuring you are heading to a medically safe country to travel to, ensuring you meet their compliance regulations, and taking all steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, it is imperative to remember to be secure online while you travel as well. Cybercrime did not take a break during COVID, and there are plenty of criminals out there looking to ruin your holidays by stealing your bank details or other sensitive information. Here are some tips on how you can stay safe online while travelling.
Use a VPN
If you’re uncertain just how VPNs work, consider this little example. By protecting all your devices with a VPN in Australia, the rest of the world can be your digital playground without fear of your actions being monitored or tracked.
A VPN (a virtual private network) is essentially an encrypted tunnel that stands between your devices and the internet. The VPN acts as a pathway between your device and the internet connection when you browse, ensuring that your network connection stays secure and encrypted.
It is especially important to use a VPN when you are accessing public networks, like Wi-Fi hotspots when travelling. Public networks are popular hangouts for cybercriminals who will use these networks to steal sensitive information from tourists.
With a VPN, all of your data is encrypted and will appear to be coming from the VPN itself, not your device. Cybercriminals will not be able to penetrate this level of encryption and your data, passwords, and internet activity will all be protected.
Why is this important? Public Wi-Fi networks often have security flaws that cybercriminals can exploit. On many occasions, these Wi-Fi networks might not be legitimate at all. They can be hotspots deliberately set up by cybercriminals to trap unsuspecting tourists.
Beware of false COVID alerts
Travelling has changed since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and holiday-makers want to ensure they are safe and compliant, especially when crossing borders. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are savvy to this. Cybercriminals use COVID-19-themed phishing emails to manipulate victims into providing personal information or downloading malicious files.
A global INTERPOL survey found that over 60 per cent of countries polled reported significant increases in COVID-19 themes being used in phishing and online scam emails since the outbreak started in 2019.
“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” INTERPOL Secretary General Jrgen Stock said.
Beware of emails and messages that you didn’t subscribe to see. Check the email address as they are likely to appear dodgy. Do not click any links, no matter what. If you receive a COVID alert, go to the source and verify it there.
Don’t enter your payment details on public networks
Public Wi-Fi is a blessing while travelling, but it can be a curse if your bank login details are stolen. Do not enter your payment details or internet bank login details in internet cafes or on networks that you are not sure of. Use secure networks (like the one at your hotel) and only when you have your VPN enabled for complete protection.
In Australia alone, the ACSC Annual Cyber Threat Report 2020-21 reported that online shopping scams and online banking scams were the leading cybercrime instances reported and that cybercrime reports increased by 13 per cent in the 2020-21 financial year.
This is true in all countries, so only enter your payment details on a trusted device, using a secure network and always ensuring you have your VPN enabled.
Turn off Wi-Fi on your devices
This advice is good to follow even when you are not travelling. Leaving Wi-Fi on will mean your devices will automatically try and connect to any Wi-Fi connection it picks up, with no discrimination between reputable and dodgy connections. You should turn your Wi-Fi off on your phones, tablets, etc., and only enable it when you are ready to manually connect to a trusted network.
Update all of your devices
Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics and the technologies they use are evolving by the day as well. By installing the latest updates to your devices you can be assured that you have the most up-to-date security features installed that can help prevent outside intrusion.
Back-up your photos and personal information to the cloud
Despite your best efforts, sometimes things can go wrong. It is not just online threats, what happens if your smartphone or tablet is physically stolen?
Upload everything that is important to you to a secure cloud hosting platform so that you can access it from any device and personal images, videos, and information is not lost.