Mobile & Gadgets Tips and Tricks

How to prepare a smartphone or tablet for a vacation

On vacation, people generally trade the cumbersome desktops and laptops for the freedom of smartphones and tablets. This presents different security challenges for users, and different threats to handle.

Problems may appear from device theft or loss, unknowingly downloading apps that install malware or steal sensitive information and links and attachments in unwanted e-mails that lead users to compromised websites through a series of redirects.

A good security solution is important – but handling it well is key. Here is a list of good practices to help you keep your data protected while enjoying your vacation:

Pay attention to what apps you download and where you get them

Download apps only from official stores of the various carriers and manufacturers, such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Installing software from un-official app distribution centers may end up harming your phone or sharing data you want to keep private.

While on vacation in an unfamiliar area, you might be tempted to download apps to help you identify hotels, restaurants, museums or locate taxis – but again install them only from trusted sources.

To avoid downloading unsafe apps from third party markets by mistake, check the configuration of your handset by going to SETTINGS, SECURITY and making sure the UNKNOWN SOURCES is NOT checked.

Make sure you access secure hotspots

Public, free Wi-Fi hotspots are particularly prone to traffic sniffing and malware dissemination as they are not password-protected and anyone can access them. Imagine that someone in your vicinity, instead of checking his favorite news portal, is in fact intercepting data packages and seeing everything you do through that hotspot.

Make sure the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the infrared options are switched off when you are not using them. They consume your battery life and might facilitate unauthorized access to the data on your mobile device.

Turn off the mobile data service when you are not using it

Roaming data is extremely expensive – in some countries you are charged for every data session, as well as per megabyte. A social application that tries to get the latest updates from friends every five minutes will cost more and max out your data plan.

Don’t share your whereabouts on social media platforms

You may be inclined to regularly update your social networking accounts and let everybody know where you are and what you do. Unless your profile is accessible to your friends exclusively, you may be letting strangers know you are not at home. Would you agree to have billboards all over the city display details about your current location?

Watch out for too-good-to-be-true summer offers

If e-mails reach your inbox out of the blue with unbelievable offers to cheap luxury hotels, suite reservations or Vodafone recharge offers for your prepaid card, ignore them. Clicking the included links may infect your device with malware, or you may end up filling in phishing forms with identity and card data to be used by fraudsters.

Password–protect and encrypt your device

In case someone steals or finds your device, make it harder to access your information stored there. Also encrypt your data with dedicated software, or – if your device supports it – with the default encryption option available. You are probably going to take a lot of personal photos on the beach or in other circumstances that you may want to keep private. Use anti-theft programs to help you track your device and lock or wipe your data from afar.

Banking or shopping online from unsecure hotspots is risky

Authenticating into any account deals with sensitive data. Typing in sensitive data while connected through an unsecure hotspot is hazardous and may end up – say – in the hands of a person monitoring network traffic.

If you are using a Windows laptop, use a dedicated payment solution such as Bitdefender Safepay to securely perform transactions when you are connected to a public, unencrypted hotspot. Alternatively, you might want to buy a local SIM for a data plan and perform all your sensitive transactions via 3G at local costs for data.

Don’t click on links or open attachments from random e-mails

Just as with desktops and laptops, e-mails via mobile devices can carry malware in attachments or include links to dangerous pages. This is why you need to refrain from clicking links or opening attachments from e-mails with an unknown sender.

Install virus protection

Installing an antivirus and a privacy security solution on your handset is imperative. But always choose a reputable source you know and trust. Look for those who also offer security solutions for PCs. This will help you steer clear of fake security apps.    

Keep the software up-to-date

By keeping your OS and apps up-to-date, you make sure your system has the most recent patches for all known vulnerabilities to protect you against the latest threats. Many pieces of malware target unpatched vulnerabilities. Once patched, they cannot harm your device and your data.

About the author

Loredana BOTEZATU

A blend of teacher and technical journalist with a pinch of e-threat analysis, Loredana Botezatu writes mostly about malware and spam. She believes that most errors happen between the keyboard and the chair. Loredana has been writing about the IT world and e-security for well over five years and has made a personal goal out of educating computer users about the ins and outs of the cybercrime ecosystem.

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