Summer vacation! Now it is called: Go on vacation or to the lake, enjoy the sun and simply switch off. In principle, yes – but you should still never disregard the issue of security and be prepared for certain tricks of criminals. So, continue to be on your guard – the following tips can help you.

No one wants to think about crime and theft during their summer vacation. While you’re enjoying your break from the daily grind, traveling and spending time with family and friends, attackers aren’t taking time off – and neither are cybercriminals. Here are five simple tips to keep your summer vacation safe.

Tip 1: Use mobile data plans or secure WiFi

In a recent survey, 82 percent of respondents said they connect to any free public Wi-Fi available while on the road. Additionally, 71 percent said they are “not at all concerned” about the security risk involved. When away from home, mobile data charges can be high – in which case public WiFi may seem tempting. But it is precisely this high number of new victims with little knowledge of security that hackers are also happy about. The risks include:

  • Man-in-the-middle attacks: a hacker stands between you and the WiFi network, posing as the network to gain access to your data. This happens because of unsecured connections, and all open WiFi networks are unencrypted.
  • Rogue Access Points: These can be installed by attackers on the network and impersonate real websites to trick users into revealing their credentials. These simulated APs are difficult to detect.
  • Injecting malware: If someone with malicious intent uses the same public WiFi as you, they can remotely spread malware or other viruses on your device. These can be advertisements, Trojans, worms or even ransomware.

Practical tips for internet security abroad:

Use a VPN: Only 1 percent of people secure their use of public Wi-Fi by using a VPN. If possible, avoid connecting to a public WLAN. If you have no other choice, a VPN can help secure your connection. If you’re not sure which VPN software to use, contact security experts and ask which software they’ve reviewed and would recommend.

Choose websites carefully: If you must use a public WiFi connection, never log into password-protected websites that request or contain sensitive data. Examples include your internet banking or social networking sites, or even your email. Only use your credit card with well-known brands and never on a website that does not have HTTPS encryption.

Tip 2: Use security tools or apps for the family

Let’s face it – a vacation with kids can be stressful. Whether it’s babies and toddlers you can’t take your eyes off, or teenagers exploring a new place on their own. It can be hard to relax when you’re worried about your kids.

Various tools can help you keep an eye on the whereabouts as well as the well-being of your kids. However, you should always remember that these features and apps should only be used with your children’s consent. Together, you can create an action plan in case the kids get lost or into trouble, or you can talk extensively about online and recreational safety.

Mobile apps: There are special tracking apps for Android or iOS that allow you to safely track your children’s location via GPS. Both Apple and Android offer parental controls and security features for families that can also track online activity.

Wearables: are you worried about your younger children? Then a small GPS tracker that can be attached to belt loops, shoelaces or a backpack, for example, may be advisable. However, a special tracking watch that does not require a SIM card is also suitable. As long as your child wears this watch, you can track his or her location in real time or be notified when your child leaves a certain area.

Tip 3: Protect yourself from thieves

More cell phones are lost in July than in any other month, because summertime is a popular time for thieves. However, they usually don’t target your vacation snapshots. Travelers’ cell phones hold boarding passes, travel documents, reservations, maps and more. With so many employees using their cell phones for work these days, there’s an additional risk of sensitive company data falling into the wrong hands. You can protect yourself with the following simple but effective measures:

  • Screen lock: do you use screen lock on your mobile devices? The best method is to use a 6-digit PIN or a biometric sensor. If you decide to use a swipe lock, you should choose a random lock -for example, no letter. 77 percent of users start their swipe pattern in one of the corners, with 44 percent choosing the top left corner.
  • Backup: Back up your data! Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud let you back up everything from your camera photos to your documentation.
  • Printed copies: Make sure your travel documents aren’t just digital and stored locally on your device. Keep them safe in the cloud as well as a printed copy in a secure location – preferably in the hotel safe.

Tip 4: Watch what you talk about – on the phone and on social media

Even on vacation, people use their cell phones to make last-minute work calls or talk to family about the trip they’re planning. Especially in public places, on trains or at the airport, you should be particularly careful what you talk about so that no important information can be overheard. Once back at the vacation destination, we naturally want to share our vacation photos and news with our friends and family. But be careful when it comes to social media coverage. Burglars can easily find out if your home is vacant.

  • Friends only: Limit the visibility of your social media accounts, even if it’s just for the duration of your trip. Twitter, for example, lets you limit your tweets to “followers,” while Facebook lets you change the permissions to “friends.” “Public” or even “Friends of Friends” is not recommended as a setting.
  • Think about what you post: “Vacation time!” says much less to a burglar than “Off to Spain, be back in 2 weeks!”.

Tip 5: Use only official websites

When we finalize our travel plans, we expect to receive email confirmations and updates from airlines and hotel representatives. Hackers know this and create phishing emails posing as our hotel’s representative, asking us to finalize a reservation or reset our password. In the rush before the vacation, it is easy to fall for such mails. Phishing emails often target accounts such as credit cards and frequent flyer logins because valuable financial information can be grabbed there.

When traveling, every phishing email seems to fit the vacation theme. An email about a flight delay has a higher chance of catching our attention – even if it’s from the wrong airline. Official messages about your bank account, itinerary, or even those with poor English and grammar because they are sent from a vacation spot have a higher chance of getting past your defenses. If you have received a suspicious email, you can report it to the respective provider. Providers have forms or special reporting facilities for this purpose.