Staying cybersecure when on the road

Jul 12, 2011 9:30am

By Jennifer Leuer, Senior Vice President of Experian Consumer Direct

Whether you are traveling for work or pleasure, the last thing you want to think about is having your identity stolen. At Experian’s ProtectMyID, we wanted to better understand how travelers were putting themselves at risk and commissioned a survey to look into it. The survey results indicated that people often leave themselves open to unnecessary risk, but there are simple steps you can take to stay cyber secure while on the road.

Identity theft is a real risk and one that is amplified during the summer months. Survey results indicated that, whether booking flights at home, logging on at a Wi-Fi hotspot in the airport or surfing the Web in a hotel room, people can put their information at risk if their connection is not secure.

Additional results indicated that enterprising identity thieves who monitor social networks or online activity will find plenty of victims. About one-fifth of all survey respondents post their travel plans to social networking sites, and the number increases in the 18-to-34 demographic. Survey trends also showed the bulk of travelers staying connected while on vacation, with a disturbing number accessing public Wi-Fi, increasing their personal data’s vulnerability. 

Whether on a staycation or a far away vacation, following are ProtectMyID summer travel tips that people can do themselves as way to better protect their identities:

1. Wi-Fi hotspots are a hotbed for identity thieves. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents use public Wi-Fi in some capacity while traveling.

  • When available, use a hard-wired connection or a personal Wi-Fi hotspot rather than public Wi-Fi. A DSL connection is typically more secure than any free Wi-Fi network you may find in a hotel business center or lobby.
  • A weak password, while using free Wi-Fi can make your computer more susceptible to invasion. Strengthen your password by making it longer and including an array of symbols, letters and numbers.
  • If you plan on using Wi-Fi provided by your hotel, ask what security measures are taken to protect guests’ information.

2. Be careful about broadcasting travel plans. Almost 50 percent of survey respondents between the ages of 18 to 34 post to their social media pages with updates on their travel whereabouts.

  • While managing privacy settings is a great way to control who views your page, you can never be certain who is reading about your whereabouts.
  • Postpone posting pictures of your adventures until you return home. Posting photos in real time are an indicator that your home is vacant, welcoming intruders.

3. Book travel on secure sites. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents aged 18 to 34 usually book travel via online third party sites.

  • While third-party sites may offer better prices, some deals are too good to be true. If it is a boutique travel site, be sure to do your research. Check for any feedback on the site, such as in online forums, blogs or groups.
  • When you click on the page to pay, ensure that it’s a secure site. The URL should begin with “https.”