Pack Cybersecurity on your Next Trip to France

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about traveling: many travelers fall victim to cybercrime when abroad and the number will only rise with time. Our devices contain extremely valuable data, from banking apps to sensitive documents, so no wonder cybercriminals are starting to pay attention. 

Whether you’re visiting the famous sights in Paris or heading to the idyllic French countryside, it’s important to take care of your cybersecurity during the trip. Here are some easy tips you can follow to secure your devices from cyber attacks. 

The Pyramids at Louvre Museum are Photogenic at Night (Paris, France).
The Pyramids at Louvre Museum are Photogenic at Night (Paris, France).

Watch out for public Wi-Fi

Who doesn’t love free Wi-Fi? Well, I can tell you who sure does: hackers. Open hotspots in cafes, airports, and hotels are generally unencrypted. That means that virtually anyone connected to the same network can intercept the traffic between your device and the server. They will be able to see which website you visit, what you send to your friends, and what login credentials you input. If you use free Wi-Fi to do online shopping, they can even steal your credit card information. 

Moreover, popular tourist areas in France are full of rogue Wi-Fi networks. They might look legit but they’re set up by hackers to bait desperate tourists into connecting. Whatever you do while connected to one of those hotspots is immediately communicated to the criminal. This is a very common strategy of password theft worldwide.

But don’t panic, you can still use free Wi-Fi. Just make sure to download a France VPN app or browser extension prior to your trip and use it whenever you browse on unreliable networks. VPN, or virtual private network, routes all your traffic through a safe encrypted tunnel, blocking third parties from accessing your data. Even if you’re connected to a rogue hotspot, hackers won’t be able to see your passwords and other information. You enjoy the blessing of a free Wi-Fi connection with a peace of mind. 

Backup your files 

We tend to pay less attention to security while on holiday, so the chances of pickpocketing are higher. Not to mention accidentally leaving items behind at airports and hotels. That’s why it’s extra important to back up files before you set off on vacation. 

Backing up files is essential for two reasons. First, you simply don’t want to lose all your photos and other sentimental files if your device gets stolen. Second, there are certain files that would be dangerous for thieves to get their hands on. Those include passport scans that can be used for identity theft, any banking details, and intimate photos/texts that could serve for blackmail. These types of files are best deleted from the device before traveling and stored on the hard drive at home. 

Never Use Airport USB Charging Stations

First free Wi-Fi, now free charging? Sorry, but it looks like cybersecurity and free services don’t go hand in hand, no matter how much we love the freebies!

The USB charging stations at airports can be modified by cybercriminals. As a result, they might either install dangerous malware on your device or download data without your consent. “Plugging into a public USB port is kind of like finding a toothbrush on the side of the road and deciding to stick it in your mouth. You have no idea where that thing has been,” cybersecurity expert Caleb Barlow told Forbes

It’s best to simply avoid using USB charging stations and plug your own charger into a wall outlet. If you really want to use the public stations, you can get a device called Juice-Jack Defender. It’s a dongle you put on your cord to stop any data flow ⁠—it still allows voltage to flow so you can charge as always but with extra security. 

Traveling in 2019

There are many hackers out there hoping to take advantage of travelers’ poor cybersecurity awareness. On the bright side, they usually aim at low hanging fruit and choose the easiest victim they can find. You don’t have to be an IT buff to do some simple device housekeeping and fight off the most common attacks. 

In this day and age, digital safety is just as important to bring along on your trip as a camera or spare socks. Make sure you take it to France!

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