Here are some great tips from Johnny Young
Don’t announce on social media you’re about to go on vacation to a fabulous destination spot that’ll make your hundreds of friends green with envy, tempting as it may be. Definitely don’t post when you’ll be out of town. While traveling, have the family stay off Instagram and Facebook until you get back! Or at the very least, don’t post pics of the fantastic vacation you’re having, because burglars will enjoy an even better time at your home. Yes, it’s hard not to show everyone in the world you can afford an amazing vacay, but criminals monitor social media looking for suckers, and those who sound off hand them the opportunity on a silver platter. If you can leverage technology, and monitor your home from the vacation site, that’s excellent. If not, at least have lights in your home connected to a timer; a pitch-black house is always going to draw attention, even from low level neighborhood thieves who have no idea you’re away.
Buy tracking tags for your luggage. Most tags have the option of tracking via GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPS (Global Positioning System), and Bluetooth; the better tags use a combination of the technologies because each have pros and cons. All can be monitored with an app on your phone. In Scenario A, if an employee at the airport needs quick cash and is looking to pull an inside job (always a risky proposition) they’ll avoid the bags with tracking tags. They know there’ll be a digital trail left behind showing exactly where the luggage went, instead of taking a direct line to the baggage claim carousel as they should. In Scenario B, if a thief is thinking of stealing the bags from your hotel room, they’ll have to spend time removing the tags, so they’ll usually move on and pick an easier target. When a criminal is dumb enough to actually take the luggage because they don’t recognize the tracking tags, they won’t realize they’re being tracked, and there’s a good chance they’ll be caught red-handed. You’ll get your stuff back, and they’ll go to the pokey. Hooray for you!
Lock your luggage. This has nothing to do with technology, but everything to do with common sense. It’s good to lock your luggage at all times, because the bag can reach its destination without a blip on the tracking radar, but all the good stuff you’d put inside may be gone. This especially sucks if you’re bringing back Christmas presents. Go Old School on this one.
Ensure your laptop has a power-on password, and a password for the operating system. “Working” vacations are very commonplace, and when I was the manager of a PC group, I saw that laptop theft is very, very common. A laptop is super tempting to grab for a person who may not be a career criminal; in the heat of the moment, they’ll reflexively steal a laptop, because selling it could provide them with enough money to support their family for a year in a very poor country. When you bring your company laptop with you on vacation, and you disable the password protection, you’ve just made a very big mistake. If the laptop is swiped, then the company is at risk for a data breach. When that happens, the stakes are suddenly much higher than the embarrassment of facing your boss and telling them the laptop was stolen; now you’ve affected the entire company, and put the corporate financial bottom line at risk. When you have strong password protection in place on your laptop, it allows the network team the time it needs to block anyone trying to get in from your device. You won’t be a hero, but at least you won’t be the zero who triggered a chain of events that caused the layoffs of other employees. Most employees hate the number of passwords they need to know, and it may not be convenient to use passwords on vacation, but they’re a highly effective way to slow down hackers and thieves.
Never carry a password list in the same travel bag as your laptop! You might as well hand over your company’s intellectual property if you do, because if the bag’s stolen you’ve left the front door open. I don’t think there’s a need to elaborate on this point. I’ve seen employees who’ve stored their laptop password list in the same travel bag as the laptop melt down, because after it was stolen everyone thought they were an idiot…including themselves.
Don’t leave the laptop out of your sight. This is a best practice whether you’re traveling in a foreign country, or going to lunch in your hometown. The most common places for laptops to be stolen are from transportation vehicles, like cars, trains, and buses, or from parking lots, airports, train stations and bus depots. If you’re going into a restaurant, bring the laptop with you; it won’t eat much. As you’re loading up your plate at the breakfast buffet, make sure you keep one eye on your laptop; even better, put your coat over it, if you’ve got one with you.
Lock your laptop in the trunk of the rental car! This applies whether you’re 5,000 miles away on vacation, or on a business trip in your own country. I’ve been in the cybersecurity business for over 35 years, and many times I’ve had to order a replacement for an employee who’d left their laptop on the car seat, only to come back and find the car window smashed in; not surprisingly, the laptop was gone for good. Remember the old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” whenever you’re contemplating whether to leave the laptop in the car interior, or taking an extra 30 seconds to lock it discretely in the trunk of the car.
Bring a $20 laptop cable lock on vacation with you! Hotel rooms have safes, a great place to store your laptop when you don’t want to lug it to the beach, the pool, or a casino. Sometimes a safe may be too small, or there may not even be one in your room; I’ve yet to see one in any Airbnb I’ve stayed at. Do yourself a favor, and either bring the laptop with you, or lock it up to something secure with the cable lock. Make sure to lock it to something super heavy, or even better, secure it to furniture the hotel has nailed down to prevent theft of their own items. A tip within a tip; a 2017 study of 300 companies by the security firm Kensington revealed 24% of laptop thefts occurred in the employee’s own office! Even your place of work isn’t 100% safe! When you’re in the office, use the cable lock to secure your laptop to the leg of your cubicle desk, or lock it in a cabinet.
Activate VPN (Virtual Private Network) software when you’re on hotel, Airbnb or public wi-fi networks. Who knows how strong the security of a public wi-fi network is? I certainly don’t, but I can almost guarantee any company laptop has VPN client software on it. VPN will insulate your laptop from any network security weaknesses of the wi-fi network you’re using that a hacker with some experience can exploit. This is a good idea even on your home wi-fi network, for the same reason.
If possible, use a credit card, instead of a debit card, during your stay. I left from a vacation with the credit card still in my wallet, yet a dishonest cashier had written down my info, and tried to use it. My credit card company alerted me to the theft; after all, I usually don’t book $9,000 vacation cruises! On the flip side, when you use your debit card a thief with local connections could drain money out of your account without you even knowing it. When I’m on vacation, I’m not exactly keeping track of every dollar I spend, and I have no doubt many of you are the same. It’s far easier to reverse out fraudulent charges on a credit card than to contest cash withdrawals on a debit card. Therefore, when I travel, I use my credit card instead of my debit card, and I think it’s a good idea for everyone.
And finally, locals will target tourists they know are on vacation, so try not to be so obvious you’re practically screaming “tourist here!”. It’s impossible if you can’t speak the language, of course, but it’s possible not to leave breadcrumbs back to where you keep all of your cash and valuables.