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By Mariann Utrosa • February 27, 2017

How To Protect Your Mobile Devices While Traveling

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My friend’s 21 year old son set out on a 2 week hiking trip across part of South America.  After arriving in Cartagena, Columbia, it took all of 12 hours for his cell phone to be stolen.  Was his cell phone configured for maximum security to protect his data just in case it was lost or stolen … or did he have to call his Mom?

Correct answer: “Collect call home to Mom”.

Misplaced or stolen smartphones can be far more invasive than simply losing a contact list or important phone numbers.  Our personal electronic devices control access to our photos, social media accounts, important documents, text messages, etc. and are essentially a gateway to our personal information and life.  If a thief or whomever finds a misplaced device can figure-out how to access it … they gain access to everything it contains.

When traveling, we should always look for a hard-wired internet connection for personal or sensitive activity like banking.  It’s convenient and tempting to check online bank or credit card accounts from a smartphone or other mobile device, but internet security experts warn that hackers who are logged into the same network could be watching traffic and figuring-out what we’re up to.  The chance is slim, but it’s a possibility. 

Hotels often provide free WiFi throughout their premises and hackers - being the opportunistic & clever creatures they are - will sometimes create and broadcast fake ‘open’ hotspots alongside authentic networks to fool individuals into connecting.  To avoid fakes, only connect to hotspots or available connections that are indicated by some reliable authority and which are secured with a strong password.

There are many methods and mechanisms for tightening security on our smartphones, such as: disabling any file sharing, using a PIN or password to gain access, decreasing the time before a screen locks, and keeping operating systems and apps up to date.  Whenever it’s not in use, disabling WiFi and Bluetooth altogether helps ensure our devices are not visible to others.

Ultimately, like so many things, smartphone security comes down to Life Rule #1: “use common sense”.  Thinking twice, paying attention and avoiding the traps of convenience are our best defence against being hacked or stolen from.  Remember to log-out of all sites when sessions are finished and of course, if all else fails … call your mom.