Brave New Wireless World

It’s a wireless world out there, and it’s getting “wirelesser” every day. Not getting tangled up in wires can make for carefree experiences – as long as you’re not careless about your online presence. That’s especially true as you travel this summer. Here are some safety tips.

First, understand that we are not only living in a wireless world, we’re living in a Bluetooth world. To get it down to very simple terms, Bluetooth enables you to set up a short-distance radio broadcast/reception system, and for most applications, it’s a plug-and-play deal. You pair your mobile device with whatever broadcast system you’ll be using, and you’re good to go.

If you’re flying somewhere this summer, you’ll likely use a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for your inflight entertainment. Airlines are eliminating the seatback screens and related systems to reduce weight and space requirements. Mobile-device manufacturers are eliminating external ports for the same reasons. As a result, you’ll be likely to watch inflight movies or TV shows from the plane’s Wi-Fi network or watch programming you’ve already downloaded to your device or computer. And, you’re also likely to use Bluetooth headphones or earbuds.

Besides inflight entertainment, Bluetooth systems can be used to connect your phone or tablet to guided tours in museums, parks and other attractions. In addition, many cameras use Bluetooth to upload photo cards to mobile devices or computers.

Because it’s a broadcast system, there are security holes. You can start by trying to make sure your device or computer has Level Four Bluetooth security. That has the strongest authentication protocol, which can help your security. Newer phones, tablets and computers are more like to have this capability. Regardless of the security level, here are a few steps to help you secure your devices:

  • Make them “non-discoverable” when you have them in use. Turn off Bluetooth when you aren’t using the device.
  • Use headphones or earbuds with signal encryption.
  • Download and install all software updates and security patches.
  • Maintain physical control of enabled devices and “unpair” any that are lost or stolen.

Second, more and more of us are using Wi-Fi hotspots to enjoy the many benefits of internet connectivity while we’re on the go. Remember, you’re on unsecured – and untrusted – networks when you use these hotspots, so practice good security. You should especially make sure you and your family members avoid online banking or shopping on these networks, and that includes making online changes to your travel reservations or using a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft.

Using a cellular network is safer, but make sure you have uploaded all the latest upgrades for your OS and apps and all security patches. Also make sure you have new, strong passwords and change them while you travel.

You might want to couple this with reviewing and/or deactivating any accounts you no longer use. A client recently got an email from Microsoft about an account that might have been compromised. We helped verify it was a legitimate message and traced it back to a free account or something that wound up being based in Turkey. He was able to access it and change the password; no harm, no foul.

However, it does raise the point that security and privacy laws vary among countries, and that you can’t depend on any company or government to guarantee your privacy and security when you’re connected to the internet or a Wi-Fi network.

We can help you make sure you have your security bases covered before you travel domestically or internationally – or even if you’re just going around the corner. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your travel-security needs.

How About an App to Navigate Airports?

Trying to cover the distance between gates for connecting flights can be a huge – if not insurmountable – problem for flyers. After catching our breath in Atlanta, I’d like an app that can tell me where my connecting flight is, how I get to that gate and how long it should take me once I finally get off the airplane.

Until somebody develops a universal app just for that, an increasing number of airports have their own apps, which include maps (helpful if you’re connecting to another flight or just beginning your visit at a destination). As part of your trip planning, see if the airports you’ll use have apps and download them ahead of time. That will make them quicker to access, especially if you need to scramble. You may be able to download information ahead of time that you can use offline to more easily find your way to baggage claim areas, ground transportation and rental car areas.

If you’re planning to travel during spring break or this summer, or if you’re a regular business traveler, there’s no shortage of apps that are useful or entertaining. Most are available from both the Apple Store or Google Play.

Handling Emergencies

The multitude of websites that let you find and book the best flights can be your best friend if you run into problems because of weather or delays that prevent you from making a connecting flight. If you’re flying routes served by multiple carriers, those apps can help you better identify your options, but they may not give you the immediate information you need. You may want to think about a premium app or premium version of a free app if you regularly run into the need to make changes on the fly.

Some apps you might want to look at include Kayak, GateGuru and TripIt. All offer you the ability to input your itinerary, which helps you know where you need to be and when, and all push out alerts with information about security wait times, flight and gate changes and similar information. As part of its premium service, TripIt can give you alternative flights when you run into trouble with weather delays or problems that can prevent you from making a flight.

Kayak syncs with your Apple Watch, which can be a welcome feature when you’re trying to get to a gate as quickly as possible.

App in the Air is a “personal flight assistant” that uses SMS texts to push information on flight changes, eliminating the need for an internet connection.

Whether you use one of these apps or your airline’s apps, use an app if you need to change a flight quickly instead of going to a desk and standing on a line. The app enables you to tap into the airline’s reservation system quickly to change a flight, select seats (if possible) and get your boarding passes.

While you may need to juggle apps, they can help you get a better outcome, and they’re faster if you have them installed and configured before you need them.

Getting There

Most likely, you’ll have used Google Maps or Waze to find the best route to the airport, and you – or rather one of your passengers – may have consulted the airline’s website or one of the many flight-tracker apps to make sure your flight is on schedule. If you’re coming from your home and need to park your car, there’s an Apple app, Airport Parking Reservations, that lets you compare and select off-site parking lots for some 150 airports in the US and Canada. And, of course, it lets you know about available discounts. There are many apps for parking reservations and discounts, but this one specializes in airports.

Getting Through Checkpoints

Once you have the car parked or if you’re on your ride to the airport, there are apps to check you in, get you through security and find a good place to hang out until boarding time. And if your phone is charged, you don’t need any paper.

If your airline doesn’t have an app to check you in, GateGuru, TripIt and Kayak are three of many apps that can help you check in and/or get to security.  They all give you security waiting times and airport maps to help you find your gate and amenities along the way. They’re all free for iOS and Android devices.

Going through security lines is usually the next challenge after checking in, and you can choose a variety of apps to help you or least give you information to help navigate the process. The TSA has its own app, My TSA, which gives you real-time info about wait times and updated information about what you can carry on a plane, etc. Its biggest advantage may be the info on which airports and airlines support TSA PreCheck® and how to sign-up.

For international travel, you can combine it with Mobile Passport. Officially authorized by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), it lets US and Canadian passport holders skip the customs and border protection lines at US airports. Simply fill out your profile and answer four of the CBP’s questions. Once they receive your data, you can go straight to the “Mobile Passport Control” express lane at 20 US airports and the Port Everglades cruise port in Florida. It’s a free app for iOS and Android, and while you won’t need it on your way out of the country, it can speed up the process when you return.

 Inside the Terminals

The apps we discussed earlier, TripIt, Kayak and GateGuru all provide info on flights and gates, amenities along the way and maps. Kayak now boasts maps with turn-by-turn directions, and it has a companion app that lets you see if better seats are available for your flight.

A growing number of airports worldwide now have their own apps, too, which give you information about amenities on the way to your gate – or to baggage claim – and maps.

One app that goes above and beyond just telling about restaurants and lounges is AirGrub, which is only available in a limited number of airports. It’s an Uber-type app that uses your flight info to help you locate participating restaurants near your gate. When you provide your flight info, you can view menus and arrange to have food delivered to the gate area before you board – all paid for through the app.

Of all the apps that center around airports, my favorite is, which lets you listen to air traffic controllers in real time. It gives me a real feel for what’s going on with landings and takeoffs and helps me figure out how much time I’ll need to spend in the airport based on flight conditions.

If you have any questions about configuring travel apps or any apps for your mobile device, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for help. Especially when you travel, your app should be a resource – not a source of frustration.