When you travel, you probably take all sorts of precautions. After all, you'll be in a place you're not familiar with, with people you don't know. You probably stay on guard, keep your luggage locked up and don't keep large amounts of cash on you. But what about your data? Most people take their laptops and cell phones along when they go on trips, or they use public computers, but what are they doing to keep these items safe?
Most people may take a few precautions at home or the office to make sure their data is secure, but when you're traveling, there is a whole new set of things to worry about. For example, using public computers in cybercafes and hotels may seem like a convenient option, but most people don't realize most of them have malicious malware on them. This can include keylogger programs that record your strokes or capture screenshots of what you're doing. Both can lead to someone stealing your log-in information. Before you using one of these computers, ask an employee or attendant what sort of security measures are used on the computers or see if you can't find a security program icon and check it out yourself. If you can't find a secure computer, avoid doing anything that involves your financial information and if you check your email, change your password when you do get to a secure location.
Using public Wi-Fi on your own personal laptop is a safer option but it can cause some problems, as well. There is free, easy to get software on the market that allows people to view and analyze Wi-Fi traffic. Your data could be read by the wrong person using this software. Use a firewall for protection. The most recent versions of both Apple and Microsoft operating systems come with a free one. You'll also want to make sure your information is encrypted. You can check this by making sure your website addresses say "https." Also, while using your laptop or smartphone in public, you may want to consider purchasing a privacy screen. This will prevent nosy neighbors from getting a glance of what you're doing.
Even when you're not using it, you'll want to protect your laptop from potential thieves. Stealing laptops is big business these days, especially at airports. According to the New York Times, over 12,000 laptops are lost or stolen each week in airports. Make sure you've protected and backed up important data. Also, never leave your laptop alone. Take it to the bathroom with you if you need to and never check it with your luggage. Even if you leave it in a hotel room, you'll want to invest in a lock to prevent dishonest hotel staff from doing something they shouldn't.
Switching gears from laptops to smartphones, a smartphone is often a safer alternative for checking email and other data that you may use your laptop for. If you use your iPhone, Blackberry, or other device to connect to Wi-Fi, though, you have the same worries as you do when you use your laptop. Also, some people can use Bluetooth to snoop into your text messages and contact information. And don't forget there are apps you can buy that will help you find your phone if it's lost or stolen. MobileMe for iPhone allows users to locate missing devices on a map, set a password lock from a remote location, display a message on the screen and erase data from a remote location, as well as making your phone ring, even if the ringer is turned off.