IT's Summer Travel Tips: Protect Your Personal Information

Researchers estimate that close to 77% of Americans will take a vacation this summer, and most will bring their electronic devices with them. With this in mind, criminals are hard at work to determine how to access and steal your personal information.

When taken abroad, mobile electronic devices – such as laptops, cell phones, and tablets – may be successfully attacked with malware and automated attack tools. As you continue to make plans for summer travel, the University of Miami wants to ensure that your data remains safe while you travel.

Connecting your personal devices to public hotspots and accessing personal information may make you the perfect target for criminals!

Here are some tips to ensure the safety of your information when you travel:

Before You Go

Never post your upcoming travel plans on social media sites. You never know who can access that information in order to know when your home will be vacant and vulnerable to an attack.

Back up your data and wipe it clean before leaving. If you must travel with important information, encrypt the data. (Note: Use of encryption to protect information may be forbidden in some countries. Check with the Office of Export Compliance for more information.)

Rename your mobile devices to something other than the generic/default name that is assigned to them at the factory. Also, ensure your software and hardware is fully updated on your devices before traveling.

While You're Away

A good general rule is to assume that anything you do over public Wi-Fi is part of a public conversation. Try to use a travel router with a prepaid SIM card for your own personal Wi-Fi network. If you must use public Wi-Fi, secure your connection using a virtual private network (like the University of Miami's Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can secure your connection on public networks).

Use strong passwords that employ numbers, characters, and special characters. Disable file sharing, and turn on your device’s firewall to block incoming connections. Use secure services like Skype to call/chat with your friends and family back home.

Be aware of your surroundings, and consider purchasing a privacy screen. Disable your device(s) from connecting to hotspots automatically. Avoid using shared computers in cyber cafes, public areas, hotel business centers, or devices belonging to other travelers, colleagues, or friends. Don’t log in to applications and/or websites you don’t need while traveling.

Turn off data roaming, as the use of data while traveling abroad can be very expensive. Always keep your Bluetooth off when you’re not using it, and ensure your Bluetooth is only paired with known devices. When not using your device(s), shut it off and physically remove its battery.

Lastly, and very importantly, keep your device(s) with you at all times during your travel! Do not assume they will be safe in your hotel room or in a hotel safe. If the device is lost or stolen, many devices provide the option to remote wipe or wipe after 10 unsuccessful attempts.

When You're Back

Upon return, change any and all passwords you may have used abroad. Back up any data your stored on your devices, and wipe it clean upon your return. Also, delete access points (Wi-Fi connections, etc.) stored on your device(s) during travel when you return home. 

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: