A traveler's guide to cybersecurity

Take these steps to protect your digital life while away from home

01 May 2019

Key takeaways

  • Keep travel dates and destinations private until you return from your trip.
  • Be cautious with hotel and public WiFi and use a VPN (virtual private network), if possible.
  • Modern antivirus and firewall software does a great job of protecting computer and smartphone users.

Posting that vacation selfie may be a fun way to share your travel adventures with family and friends, but you may also catch the attention of bad actors looking to separate you from your hard-earned money. Business, personal and family travelers alike contend with a unique set of digital threats that you don't have to think about while at home. Below, find these tips to stay safe no matter where your next adventure takes you.

Beware sharing dates and specific locations

Getting likes on your Facebook or Instagram account is a lot of fun, but it's smart to keep travel dates and destinations private until you return from your trip. This helps keep your home safe while you're away, and if you're traveling alone, it protects your family back at home.

"You really need to be careful with what you put on social media," says Ellen Segriff, Head of Privacy and Cyber Information Security at UBS. "The bad actors will check social media and look for your travel information."

Criminals use a variety of methods to scope out potential break-in opportunities, both digital and in the physical world. With the rise of social networks, those criminals have easy access to a wide variety of information about you. Make sure you don't publicize something that should stay private.

Bulletproof your device security

Putting a secure password on your wireless network at home is important for your digital security, but in the modern era, digital security doesn't end at your front door. "Whether you are home or away, make sure your devices are up to date with the most recent antivirus and anti-malware," says Segriff.

Modern antivirus and firewall software does a great job at protecting computer and smartphone users from threats, but they don't work nearly as well if you ignore the reminder to update your files. That goes for your operating system and any apps, as well.

Segriff notes that you should never use computers in hotel lobbies or other public venues while traveling or attending conferences. "When you're away, be sure you are not using a public computer," she says. "A computer at a hotel could have malware or viruses that leave you vulnerable."

Be cautious with hotel and public WiFi, and use a VPN (virtual private network), if possible. Segriff warns that while it may seem tempting at a nice hotel, you should "never conduct any financial transactions on public WiFi."

Don't forget about shared information

In some cases, your information may end up in the public's hands whether you left a security gap or not. For example, the world's largest hotel chain, Marriott, recently disclosed a data breach affecting up to 500 million customers through its Starwood subsidiary.1

While this could have impacted customers years after their trip, it is important to take action to protect your finances.

"Take the same precautions when choosing a travel company as you do when choosing any other company," says Segriff. "If you find yourself a victim of a data breach, you can turn on a credit freeze on your credit report. This can stop someone from opening a line of credit in your name."

Have a digitally secure and fun trip

If you make it difficult to get to your data, the cyber criminals may give up and pick on someone else. You don't have to be scared while traveling if you take basic precautions.

"My main message is that cybersecurity has to be a way of life. Just because you're on vacation, it doesn't mean you shouldn't follow basic security tips," according to Segriff.

Whatever you do, don't hand out your data on a platter. Add the right apps and take the right steps to make sure you are digitally secure no matter where you go.

Connect with your UBS Financial Advisor

To discuss how you can protect and grow your wealth.