Traveling this holiday season? Whether you’re going over the river and through the woods or to somewhere a little more exotic, we’ve got a few tips to help you stay safe.


1. Goodbye Wi-Fi, hello VPN


Because Wi-Fi is generally how we access the Internet abroad, there is a temptation to connect to public Wi-Fi whenever possible. However, this could leave you vulnerable to hackers who can eavesdrop on or hijack that public connection. Open and public networks do not encrypt their traffic, so anyone can access the network and the data moving across it. Data that is sent over a public network is written in “clear text” so anyone can read it. Ask your hotel about their secured Wi-Fi network. If using public Wi-Fi is your only hope option, always make sure to log out when finished and avoid accessing any sensitive accounts or information (like banking websites).

UD is also part of the eduroam federation—a network of institutions that support shared, secure internet access. If you’re traveling to another partner institution, you can use your UD credentials to access the eduroam Wi-Fi network.

The safest way to browse the Internet is through a secure VPN (virtual private network). Those traveling on UD business can use UD’s VPN to log into institutional systems. Using a commercial (personal) VPN would layers over your normal network connection, encrypting your traffic and keeping your identity and information private, even on otherwise-public networks.


2. Secure your devices


Having a password or fingerprint lock on your devices can stop thieves from accessing your information if they manage to steal your phone or laptop.

Turning on the Find My iPhone or Find My Device feature on your device gives you more powerful options. For example, if your device goes missing, you can remotely lock it and report the theft. You can even erase its memory to ensure no one can steal your data (you backed up your data before you left home, right?).

If you store your devices or other possessions in the safe or security box in your hotel room, use a unique, non-obvious PIN for the safe.


3. Protect your accounts


Be careful about which accounts you access while traveling; using unsecure connections or public devices puts your data and accounts at risk. It’s best if you avoid accessing sensitive accounts, like banking or medical accounts, until you get back home. If you do need to access these accounts, be sure to change your password when you return. You could also use your bank’s (or other organization’s) verified app instead of a browser. Generally, apps have local security features that transmit data more safely than browsers and unfamiliar connections would.

You can also enable two-factor authentication (when available) to further protect your information.


4. Limit use of location sharing


Features like Bluetooth, location sharing, and auto-connect to Wi-Fi may be useful at home, but you might want to turn them off while you’re traveling.

We covered some of Wi-Fi’s risks above; disabling auto-connect gives you control over those issues by preventing unintentional connections to insecure networks.

Location sharing on social media can let your friends know where you are, but it can also tell criminals where they can find you (or when your house is vacant). This is not necessarily a threat to your data, but it can put you and your belongings at risk.

Lastly, Bluetooth can signal your phone’s location and system information, leaving your device open to probes and follow-up attacks. Keeping it turned off when you’re not actively using it takes away one more avenue for hackers to get into your device.


5. Use protection against intrusions


Anti-virus software is one important way to safeguard your devices and data; you should have some kind of anti-virus program installed even when you aren’t traveling. Make sure you turn on auto-updates (or update your software manually) to make sure you have the most up-to-date protection available.

When you travel this holiday season, make sure you take the necessary steps to protect your information. If you want more tips on traveling securely, check out these helpful articles by the New York Times, Norton, and Forbes.