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 access

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. 

 Tips to stay cyber safe while travelling

Tablets/laptops

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.   

 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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