Cyber security while travelling
More and more Canadians are travelling and bringing their electronic gadgets, like phones, tablets and laptops, with them. Getting some work done or chatting with friends doesn’t stop just because we’re away from our offices and homes.
Unfortunately, cyber-based threats can significantly increase when you are travelling, and devices can easily be compromised or stolen. When you travel, protect yourself by being cyber aware.
Wireless (or "Wi-Fi") access
You can connect your cellphone, smart phone, laptop or tablet to the Internet at wireless access points, sometimes free of charge, at coffee shops, in hotels or at airports during your travels. These highly unsecure networks are accessible to everyone.
People intending to steal identities and personal information may establish free Internet access points that are made to look trustworthy. They can name an access point or Wi-Fi network anything, even adding a single letter to the name of a trusted network. When you connect to their system you open your devices up to attack. Be sure to confirm the name of any Internet connection before you log on.
Any information that you send over an unknown network could be intercepted. Never transmit information that you wouldn’t want disclosed to an undesired or unauthorized party.
Shared or public computers
A malware family known as “keylogger” is commonly used to steal personal information. Keyloggers are covert software applications or physical devices attached to computers that capture any information that is entered into the device. Always be sceptical of the security of an unfamiliar network or device; use free computing resources with the assumption that any information you enter could be seen by an unauthorized third party.
Bluetooth is a short-range radio frequency connection between two devices, such as the technology that allows you to make hands-free phone calls while driving. With Bluetooth, the user has to allow another device to connect to his or her device before an exchange of data can take place. Once the secure relationship is confirmed, data can flow freely between the two devices with little or no user confirmation.
- Be cautious when allowing users or applications access to your devices via Bluetooth and in how you manage your device’s Bluetooth connections. Some devices allow for automatic connection, meaning that other Bluetooth networks can connect to your device without authorization. Check the networking capabilities of your devices to ensure proper Bluetooth settings. Disable your Bluetooth networking while you are travelling to prevent unwanted connection attempts.
Tips to stay cyber safe while travelling
- Always use a password on your device.
- Write your name on a visible or accessible part of your device. For example, set up a screen saver that lists your name and local address so that the device can be returned to you if someone finds it.
- Some devices have an option that will erase all data if the password is entered incorrectly 10 times. Enable this option so that if you lose the device, that’s all you’ll lose.
- Some smart phones and iphones can be locked remotely through cloud programs and offer self-locating options and anti-theft software. Find out if these options are available on your device and ensure they are enabled. Disable your wireless (Wi-Fi) connection when you are not using your device to connect to the Internet.
- Avoid charging your phone on computers or devices that you do not control, such as hotel docking stations. Malicious software could be stored on devices that could be transferred when your device is connected. Use your personal computer or a direct-to-wall-socket charging port to charge your phone.
- Update your antivirus software before travelling.
- Install a firewall on your device.
- Update patches that may be required by your computer operating system and applications.
- Ensure you have all the software and hardware you need so that you don’t have to buy any in another country.
- Never connect an unknown USB flash drive to your tablet or laptop. Any device that connects to a USB port can be considered a storage device and may contain malicious software (mp3 players, smart phones, external hard drives etc.).
- Avoid using unknown storage media such as CDs, DVDs or floppy disks in your computer. They may contain malicious software that automatically reads the contents of storage media or drives. You do not need to click on a malicious file for your computer to be infected.
International laws and regulations on digital information
If you access your webmail in another country, do you know whether its government is watching you?
Is the risqué novel that you saved on your e-reader or iPad considered pornographic in the country you are visiting?
Will the downloaded music on your MP3 player and the torrent movies on your laptop or tablet cause you intellectual property and digital asset problems when you are entering a foreign country?
Can some countries compel you to provide them with the data on your iPad or laptop? What if the data is corporate intellectual property?
You are subject to the laws governing intellectual property, digital information and encrypted data in the countries that you visit. What is considered legal in one country may not necessarily be considered legal in another. The legislation may extend beyond the data to the hardware and the format in which it is stored. If you are not familiar with the laws covering intellectual property, digital information and encrypted data in your destination country, contact the embassy or mission of your destination country in Canada before you leave on your trip abroad.
Border agents are legally entitled to conduct search and seizure actions against anyone entering or leaving their countries. Do not take any data into another country that you are not prepared to lose.
Protect your equipment
Protecting the physical security of your devices is just as important as protecting yourself through digital measures. Laptops and smartphones are popular targets for thieves, since they are relatively small and can yield a high profit. A thief can transfer data from your unattended device to a secondary storage device and can upload malicious software to be accessed later.
- Do not let your devices out of your sight. Don’t leave your phone charging in a public conference room while you go for lunch or lend your phone to a stranger who needs to make a call.
- Lock up valuable and sensitive electronic equipment when it is not in use.
- Do not leave valuable or sensitive electronic equipment lying around your hotel room.
- Just as you wouldn’t wear expensive jewellery in a dangerous area, do not flash your expensive devices.
- Do not rely on “good hiding spots” within a hotel room to secure your equipment. This may be the first time you have seen the room but it is not the first time someone else has seen it.
- When travelling, keep your electronic equipment in your carry-on baggage to avoid potential in-flight loss or damage.
Back up data files prior to departure
Back up your data files to another device or to software such as Dropbox or a cloud storage program before you leave home.
For more detailed information, visit GetCyberSafe.gc.ca.
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