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Security tips for the holiday season

​As we enter the busy holiday season – which includes travel for many people – our information security team offers important reminders of how we can best protect ourselves, the Society, and the sensitive information and transactions we deal with every day. 

1: Update your devices’ operating systems and software.

Before you travel, make sure your smartphone and computer operating systems and software are up-to-date.

2: Take only what you need.

Do you really need to pack 15 different electronic devices? The more devices you take, the more you’ll have to keep safe from hacking, theft, or accidents.

3: Lock down your devices.

Make sure that all the devices you take on a trip are protected with strong passwords, and/or a biometric lock, and disable any file-sharing capabilities. Avoid taking devices that contain sensitive data. If you cannot avoid traveling with a device that contains sensitive data, consider encrypting it using encryption software.

4: Use caution on public wi-fi.

Many airports, hotels, and restaurants offer free, unsecured public wi-fi, which poses a multitude of cyber security risks. Avoid using these networks. Tethering to your phone is a much safer option. If you absolutely must connect to a public wi-fi network, follow these best practices.

5: Don’t leave devices unattended.

Lock up any devices you leave in hotel rooms, and never leave your devices unattended in public areas, not even for a moment. For example, never set your phone down on a counter while you reach into your purse or wallet. When using your devices in public areas – especially crowded ones – conceal your devices as much as possible. Keep them tucked inside interior pockets or hidden inside zippered bags, and make sure those bags never leave your possession.

6: Don’t share your current location on social media.

Many social media sites have an option to “check in” to your current locale so your followers can track you on your trip. The downside of this feature is, hackers can also track your movements and use them to their advantage. For example, they can break into your home, office, or hotel room when they know you’re not there. It’s best to turn off this feature and maybe post where you’ve been after you’ve already returned home.

7: Don’t share your phone with strangers.

While traveling (or really any day), you may be approached by strangers with sob stories about losing their phone (or having it stolen) and needing to borrow yours to call for help. Never let strangers “borrow” your phone or any other device. It takes only a few moments for a skilled cybercriminal to install malware on your device – or simply to run away and disappear into a crowd.

8: Don’t use Bluetooth.

Many rental cars allow travelers to connect their smartphones using Bluetooth. However, some vehicles store your personal information, such as your contact list, even after you’ve terminated the connection. Enabling Bluetooth connectivity also leaves your device vulnerable to hackers. Turn off Bluetooth before you leave for your trip, and don’t turn it back on until you get home.

9: Turn off network auto-connect.

Many smartphones include a feature that enables them to automatically connect to available wi-fi networks. It’s good practice to turn off this feature, not only when you travel but permanently. Telling your phone to automatically connect to any available network leaves you vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.

10: Use credit cards, not debit cards.

Always use a credit card, not a debit card, when paying for hotel rooms or meals or making any other purchases on the road. Point-of-sale systems are major targets for hackers, and if your credit card data is stolen, you have far more recourse to get fraudulent charges refunded than you do with a debit card. This also prevents hackers from getting access to your bank account. 

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