As the most popular travel days of the year approach, many holiday travelers are creating mental checklists for navigating busy airports — most likely with their trusty mobile devices in hand and laptops in their bags. To save fliers the headache and heartbreak of having their devices compromised en route to Grandma’s house, here’s a checklist to keep smartphones, tablets, and laptops safe while spending time in an airport.
Get Smart Before You Leave Home
When you check in online the day before your flight, take some time to check off a few more pre-travel to-dos.
- Make sure you lock all your devices, whether cellphones, tablets, PCs, or Macs. Either use a touch ID or create strong passwords. Use a combination of at least eight numbers, letters, and special characters.
- Update all of your operating systems and apps to the latest versions to protect your devices from any known vulnerabilities.
- Print out as many travel documents at home as possible, such as boarding passes and baggage tags. The fewer automated kiosks you use at the airport, the better, because those touchscreen kiosks are hackable.
- Protect your smartphones and laptops with security software, such as Norton Security.
- Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth auto-connect features in your device’s settings to prevent automatically connecting to either as you traverse the airport. Turn off file sharing, too.
- Download a VPN app, like Norton WiFi Privacy, to protect your information if you decide to use public Wi-Fi at the airport.
BYOC: Bring Your Own Charger
Recent risks to mobile devices at airports involve the always-popular charging stations. And when your flight is delayed and your device’s battery is low, the prospect of not being able to use your smartphone or tablet may make using a free charging station very tempting. But here are two reasons you shouldn’t.
Juice jacking can happen when you use a USB port at a charging station that’s been tampered with by hackers out to get your personal information. That’s because USB ports are also used to transfer data onto or off of your phone. If you happen to fall victim to a compromised charging station, a hacker could access all of your sensitive personal information: emails, photographs, and more. Bring your own power cord to be safe.
Or, if you forget yours and need to use a USB cable to charge, power off your phone before plugging it into the USB cable to reduce the risk of data being accessed or malware being uploaded. This is not a fail-proof workaround, however, as some devices automatically turn back on when charging.
Video jacking is a newer version of juice jacking that requires a hacker to outfit a charging station with an HDMI splitter and recorder. The scam works in a similar way: While your device is plugged into the USB charging station, the hacker can both view and record whatever you do on your smartphone. Worst-case scenarios could be the hacker being able to see personally identifying information that could give them access to your financial and email accounts.
- Carry a power cord or a portable battery charger.
- Avoid USB-based charging stations.
- Power off and lock your device if you must use a charging station.
- If you plan to use your device while it’s charging, avoid accessing or entering any sensitive information.
Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi
Once your device is fully powered, you may be tempted to use free public Wi-Fi instead of your data plan. Don’t. Public Wi-Fi may be convenient but it’s rarely secure. In heavily trafficked public spaces like airports, hackers have a large number of targets they can lure into connecting to bogus hotspots with names that sound legitimate. Once you’re connected to a unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot, any information that travels over the connection could be snooped on by a hacker.
- If you must use public Wi-Fi, choose an option that is at least password-protected.
- Use a VPN app to encrypt all of the information leaving and entering your mobile device. With the Norton WiFi Privacy app, all of your private information stays private no matter how unsecure the Wi-Fi connection may be.
As you navigate airports during this busiest of travel seasons, be sure to use this simple checklist for your devices so you can enjoy some peace of mind.