Staying connected while traveling is easier than ever. Smartphones, wifi, and Bluetooth are just a few of the tools that enable us to remain connected with friends, family, and work from almost anywhere in the world. But these tools could also put you at risk for identity theft.
Avoid Public WIFI
Depending on where you travel, you may or may not be able to obtain a signal on your smartphone. Have no fear, use the public wifi at your nearest airport, hotel, or coffee shop. All you need is the access code which typically is available to anyone in the vicinity. While these public wifi networks are convenient, they are also risky.
Two of the risk associated with using public wifi is the risk of it being a malicious network and the risk of a man-in-the-middle attack. Malicious wifi networks are cloned versions of the legitimate public wifi network. They often have the same name as the legitimate public wifi network. When you attempt to connect, you are unable to determine which is the legitimate one and which is the malicious one. If you should, unfortunately, connect to the malicious network, it could install malware on your device or could enable a hacker to view everything you are doing on his network, also known as wifi eavesdropping.
If you were fortunate enough to join the legitimate public wifi network, you are still at risk. You are not the only one on that network. You and everyone else in the vicinity with the access code are also on the network. If a hacker is on the network, he could launch a man-in-the-middle attack. The hacker captures and relays communications between two parties who believe they are communicating with each other, thus, permitting the hacker to see everything that you are doing online.
You have been using your device and now realize that your battery is getting low. You have a few options to recharge:
- Plug into a charging station using your USB cable
- Plug into an electrical outlet
- Plug into your portable battery charger
Out of these three options, the riskiest choice would be plugging into a charging station using your USB cable. USB cables can charge a device or charge a device and transfer data. Most people use cables that enable charging and the transfer of data so that they do not have to carry multiple cables. It is the “transferring of data” that makes it risky to plug in at a charging station. When you plug your USB cable into the charging station, you could be enabling the transfer of data in or out of your device. This is known as juice-jacking. To avoid juice-jacking, either find an electrical outlet or plug into your portable battery charger. You could purchase a USB cable that only charges the device. Just make sure to buy it from a reputable store and not online. You cannot visually see if malicious software was installed on the USB end of the cable.
Hands-Free Connection in Rental Vehicle
Perhaps you rent a car on your trip. The state where you are visiting has a “hands-free” law, which means you cannot have your smartphone in your hand while driving. The easiest solution is to connect your smartphone to the vehicle through Bluetooth. Once connected you can upload your contacts into the car. Wait; what? What happens when you return the rental car? You guessed it; your contacts remain in the vehicle. Your best defense is to avoid connecting to the rental car using Bluetooth. If you must connect, make sure that you reset the car or delete your device and contacts from the vehicle before returning to the rental agency.