Protecting Your Technology and Data While on Vacation

How to prepare for your vacation and tips while you're away. 

We all take vacations or just go out of town for a day or two. When we do, what is the best way to keep our technology and data safe?

Of course, you can trust the security of your home to keep your electronics safe, but what about the technology you take with you -- your smartphone or laptop? Here are a few things to keep in mind when taking a trip.

Before You Leave

Go through the files you've accumulated on your laptop and phone. It'd be a good idea to make sure that if any of these files are important they get backed up to a cloud or other location you deem safe. You should make sure that what files are in your Documents, Downloads, Pictures, or Videos do not contain any sensitive information (like your SSN or passwords for websites).

If you are not planning on having your laptop in your hands 100% of the time, you should prepare as though it will get lost. The only thing lost if it doesn't end up missing is a few minutes of time before you leave.  If it does go missing and you don't prepare, you could end up losing the only pictures of your first dog or not knowing if whoever ended up with it is going to use your saved password list to hijack your accounts. (Keeping your passwords in a spreadsheet or other document is a bad idea, you should use a password manager which encrypts them to prevent stolen data from being useful ##Link password manager post?##)

Even with your phone, you should prepare as though it may end up missing or stolen. This includes backing up your contacts, setting an unlock passcode, and setting up Find My iPhone or Find My Device (the Android equivalent) so that you can remotely locate, lock, or wipe your phone.

While You're Away

While you're on vacation, be aware that free, open WiFi is not secure. When you connect in the coffee shop, hotel, or other location with free WiFi, use a VPN to keep your data secure. Any data you transmit on WiFi is visible to anyone in the area. The only way to prevent this is to use a VPN.

When you use a VPN, it encrypts your data before it leaves your computer and then it remains encrypted until it reaches the VPN endpoint where it is decrypted and released on the internet. VPNs don't make you totally untraceable, but they do prevent other people from getting your data locally.

If you are staying in a Hotel, consider using the safe in the room if you are going out without your laptop. This includes going to the pool or restaurant in the hotel. Anytime you leave your room, there is a chance that an employee or someone who obtained a key through other means may enter your hotel room on the hunt for valuables.

Encrypting hard drives on business computers is highly recommended. This makes it much harder for a thief to access anything on the computer.

While these precautions may seem like a lot to remember, most will become second nature leaving you free to enjoy your well earned vacation.