6 Ways Your Tech Is Vulnerable When You Travel

6 Ways Your Tech Is Vulnerable When You Travel

There’s a joke that if you ask somebody who knows about aerospace engineering, they will tell you how safe it is to fly in an airplane. Likewise, an expert in oceanography will confirm you’re unlikely to die from a shark attack.

But if you ask a tech expert about the safety of your devices, they will wince and urge you to get off the grid immediately.

We exaggerate, but not much. Technology is vulnerable to a number of attacks by criminals out to steal your identity, your passwords, or the devices themselves. When you travel, you’re even more vulnerable to these attacks because you’re in a strange place surrounded by new faces and likely disoriented.

Here are six ways your tech is at risk when you travel and how to protect yourself.

1. Bluetooth Is Easy to Hack

Waiting for the bus in Milan, you link your smartphone to your headphones via Bluetooth. The music soars as you check out the street scene around you with no pesky cords to hamper you. You’ve done this dozens of times at home and don’t think twice about it.

What the Bad Guys Do

Bluetooth is a highly insecure method of connecting two devices. It’s alarmingly easy for hackers to “ride” that connection into the workings of your phone, accessing your data, cloning your phone, and invading your privacy. And hackers often target people who seem to be from out of town.

What You Can Do About It

Turn off your Bluetooth functionality using your settings for all devices before you leave home. Turn it back on when you get home. It’s that simple. Anything Bluetooth does that you’ll need on a trip, you can handle with a cord.

2. Checking In Highlights Your Location

After a long day of tomb raiding in Angkor Wat, you sit down in an open-air restaurant with beer and rice. You post a selection of photos from the trip. You smile as your friends like the images and express their admiration and jealousy about your adventure.

What the Bad Guys Do

Tourist locations are host to a class of criminals who spot and target travelers, who they know to be wealthy — or at least wealthier than the locals — and likely to be distracted. It’s quite easy for criminals to search social media for mention of their hometown and use the location markers of your images to track your movements.

What You Can Do About It

The best practice is to wait until you get home to post vacation photos, but we understand sharing your experiences with friends can be an important part of enjoying your travel. If you’re tech-savvy enough to scrub the exif data from your photos, it’s a time-consuming but effective solution.

If this is a bit above your knowledge base or comfort level, wait until you get back to the hotel to post and never post about your plans for the next day. This way, the bad guys may know where you’ve been, but they won’t know where you’re headed.

3. Charging Your Phone Opens It to the Public

At a bar in Miami, you notice your phone is running at 10%. You sit next to an outlet, plug in your charging brick, and let it juice up while you enjoy a Cubano sandwich and a nice bottle of Chago beer.

What the Bad Guys Do

If you’ve ever charged your phone using the USB on your computer, you’ve seen the pop-up asking if the phone can trust the computer you just plugged it in to. That dialogue happens invisibly when you plug your phone into a charging brick, and hackers can use that dialogue to get access.

What You Can Do About It

Charge your phone in your hotel room or another secure area. When you go out for the day, use all the standard practices for keeping your phone’s power consumption low. Power banks and charging phone cases are also more secure options.

Our Core Power line includes secure portable power packs for laptops and phones so you can charge wherever you go.

4. Using Public Wi-Fi Invites Eavesdroppers

An hour before your flight home from Lima, you sit down at the gate. With gigabytes of photos to share, you log in to the airport Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to pay data roaming charges to share your adventure.

What the Bad Guys Do

Public Wi-Fi presents two problems when it comes to your device security. First, you’re joining a network. That network allows anybody with the password to join — and, in many highly trafficked areas like airports and train stations, anybody at all. When you’re on a network with other people, those people have higher levels of access to your computer. Hackers know how to exploit that.

That’s true of legitimate networks, plus hackers also create fake Wi-Fi hubs with names similar to the legitimate network. Joining these networks invites hackers to connect with and exploit your device.

What You Can Do About It

Patience, grasshopper. Put your phone away and pick up a book. Wait to go live until you’re on a network you can trust.

5.  Physical Theft Is a Lurking Threat

Even though you kept your bag firmly on your shoulder in the crowd surrounding the Eiffel Tower, suddenly it feels much lighter. You take it off and find the bottom slashed and the contents removed.

What the Bad Guys Do

This common upgrade on pickpocketing uses a scalpel to cut your pack and the jostling of the crowd to mask the action. Sometimes, accomplices start a loud argument with each other or a passerby to thicken a crowd and distract likely victims.

What You Can Do About It

Buy backpacks with reinforced walls and straps that will deter this kind of pickpocketing. None will stand up to a really determined attempt, but the good ones will make it impossible to do with stealth. You’ll feel it and be able to move away before you lose anything.

6. When You Check Your Information, Hackers Can Too

On a group tour in India, you have an opportunity to ride an elephant through a brilliant swampland to go tiger spotting, but you’re not 100% sure there’s room on your card for the bill. So, you whip out your phone and check to see if you can do it.

What the Bad Guys Do

Checking your financial records and travel documents is something you do more while traveling than at home because opportunities and concerns pop up more regularly and with greater urgency. Hackers know this and monitor your transactions specifically because your banking information is more likely to pop up.

What You Can Do About It

Whenever possible, use land lines to check your financial accounts, itinerary, and other personal information. It’s a hassle, but it protects your data as well as it can be protected when you’re out in the world.

Final Thought

There’s one safety concern we can’t do anything about at Mobile Edge, no matter how much we would like to. Security experts ranging from Gavin DeBecker to Rory Miller, as well as training for special forces and the Secret Service, say that situational awareness is the most important factor in keeping yourself and your belongings safe while you travel.

We haven’t built a laptop case yet that puts eyes in the back of your head. Until we do, combine smart awareness practices with the physical safety of our gear to minimize the vulnerability of your information.

Special Offer

Make a purchase from the Mobile Edge online store between February 20 and February 28, 2019 using promo code METRAVEL and get 20% off at checkout.

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