South African school holidays are finally here, which means downtime and people are booking hotels, arranging travel, or settling in at the beach with the digital version of a good read. For many families, the kids are home from school and permanently wired into an array of connected devices. So, along with the fun activities, you need to take precautions to ensure that you and your family are cybersafe this holiday as well.
Fortinet’s Doros Hadjizenonos share seven tips to remember to help keep you and your family safe online this holiday:
1. Practice safe wi-fi
As you travel to visit family you will want to stay connected. Which means you will be logging into public wi-fi access points. While many of these are perfectly safe, that’s not always the case. People looking to steal your data have a number of tricks up their sleeves. They can connect to a public access point and then broadcast themselves as that access point. Which means you connect to them, they connect you to the Internet, but they can intercept all data between you and your online shopping site, bank, home security system, or wherever else you browse to.
If you will be travelling internationally, you may also want to turn off wi-fi when entering a new country.
2. Upgrade your passwords
One of the biggest mistakes people make is using the exact same password on all their online accounts. Remembering a unique password for each site may be impossible to keep track of.
There are two approaches. The first is to use a password vault that stores the username and password for each account, so all you have to remember is the single password for that application and it takes care of the rest. The other is to create a tier of applications and then create more complex passwords to remember for each group.
3. Recognize scams in email and on the web
Don’t click on links in advertisements sent to your email or posted on web sites unless you check them first. As tempting as it might be, never open an email or click on an attachment from someone you don’t know – especially when it includes an enticing subject line, such as a cash reward or a bill for something you didn’t purchase (no matter how much you might want to see that receipt for the diamond ring you don’t remember buying.) And take a minute to look at those emails from people you know as well.
4. Protect yourself from viruses and malware
Install reputable and well-reviewed anti-malware software, keep it updated, and run it regularly. And because no software is 100% effective, set up a schedule where you load and run a second or third security solution to scan your device or network. (Many solutions provide a free online version or let you run a free demo for a brief period of time.)
For more advanced users using a laptop or desktop, also consider maintaining a clean virtual machine on your device that you can switch to for your more security-sensitive browsing or to perform online transactions where security is paramount.
5. Keep your devices updated
One of the most successful attack vectors hackers use is targeting vulnerabilities that are already well known, but which are not being protected against. The developers of your devices, as well as the apps you run on them, all issue regular security updates designed to protect you from known threats. Download and run these updates as soon as they become available.
6. Control your social media
Many times, hackers will use information about you to make it more likely that you will click on a link. And the most common place for them to get that personal information is social media sites. The easiest way to prevent that is to simply set up strict privacy controls that only allow pre-selected people to see your page.
When travelling, limit your vacation messages on social sites.
7. Educate your family and friends
Be a good net neighbour and share this information with your kids, your partner, your parents and siblings, and your friends. That’s because not only do you not want bad things to happen to them, but because they are also connected to you and you trust them.
We live in a digital world, and cybercrime is part of it. We lock our cars, deadbolt our doors, look both ways before crossing the street, and avoid dark alleyways. We need to develop the same cautions as we navigate our digital environment. You and your kids all may be safe inside your home or hotel room, but just as with the physical world, you are never 100% safe online. Risk comes with the territory. But if we all just exercise a bit more caution, impose just a little more scrutiny on the tools and applications we use, and develop just a little more online common sense, the digital world we live in would quickly become a whole lot safer.