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The Airport Scramble

Airports are such great targets for cybercriminals because they are so crowded and hectic. When you throw in winter weather delays and the need to change flights or make emergency lodging reservations, they’re great hunting grounds.

The good, the bad and the ugly of travel is that the entire industry has encouraged us to use technology to make reservations; check statuses and confirm flights, car rentals and lodging; and check in at every stop along the way. You can even use your phone to get your car or enter a rental home.

It’s all internet-based, and your service and product providers like the internet for two reasons: 1.) It’s a lot cheaper for them than hiring people, and 2.) they can’t find enough people to handle all the business they have. When you combine available technology with overwhelming numbers of travelers, you are forced to go online for most of your dealings, both routine and emergency. Travel writers and travelers’ tales have documented that you can rebook flights and track baggage more effectively either by using airlines’ apps or social media. Person-to-person interaction is much slower and getting a person on a telephone is next to impossible.

Even if everything goes smoothly at the airport, you’re spending more time there. That means you and your family members will be passing more time on your devices. So here are some steps to make sure you’re safe online.

Avoid using the airport’s Wi-Fi wherever you can. Make sure everyone’s devices are fully charged before you leave home, and make sure you’ve downloaded all the movies you’ll want to watch. If you need to go online, use your cellular network for any activity that requires a password, and that includes apps, especially those you’ll need if a travel crisis comes up. Your data networks are usually encrypted.

If you must use Wi-Fi, especially if on your computer, take these steps:

  • Limit your time online. The longer you’re on, the more you can be seen – and the greater the chance someone can find a way into your device.
  • Disable all file-sharing capabilities.
  • Make sure you log out of any website you visit; don’t wait for it to time out.
  • Be on the watch for your phone joining networks automatically.
  • Check the “forget network” box so that your device won’t save all the networks you encounter as you travel.

If you need to charge devices in the airport – or any public space – try to use a direct connection to an electric outlet instead of a USB port. Those ports can be security-compromised.

If you hook your phone up to a rental car’s Apple or Google CarPlay system, make sure you wipe the car’s infotainment system clean (electronically) before you return the car. Even if you just use Bluetooth and your phone’s contact list to make hands-free calls, you’ll leave breadcrumbs for someone to follow.

In your hotel and all public places, make sure you join as secure a network as you can. Hackers love to mimic legitimate Wi-Fi networks by creating something similar to the network you want to use. Don’t just join a network blindly. From your hotel to the airport to the cafe, ask an employee for the official network name and password.

In many hotels, you can verify you’re on the right network by typing in your password with an error, such as misspelling your name or some other typo. If you still get Wi-Fi access, you’re likely on an unauthorized (hacker) network.

We can help you travel safely by helping you configure all your devices before you leave home. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us, and we’ll walk you through the settings.