March 2, 2022

safe traveling spring 22

Planning to travel during spring break? If so, there are a number of cybersecurity tips to keep in mind.

Traveling, especially abroad, poses unique threats for the campus community. Whether you plan to travel with a Texas A&M-owned device or other devices that may contain university research or business data, please contact your unit’s IT department or the Division of IT before your trip begins.

Your IT department:

  • May provide you with a loaner device. This is preferred in all cases of travel to high-risk countries.
  • Will need to ensure all the required security controls are installed and functioning on your devices.
  • Will ensure your system is patched.
  • Will verify that multifactor authentication is properly enabled.
  • Will help you back up your data and information.

Here are some extra tips to keep you and your data safe when you travel.

Change your Password

  • While traveling, change the passwords you regularly use (including your NetID password).
  • After the trip, change them again. 

Lock Your Devices

When not using a device, lock it! Just stepping away for a few moments gives someone enough time to steal or misuse your information. Set your devices to lock after a short time and use strong Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Most smartphones, laptops and tablets have security settings that allow you to lock the device using a PIN, password, or fingerprint. Do this on every available device. 

Be careful with Public Wi-Fi

Before connecting to a public wireless hotspot—such as at an airport, hotel, or café—be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure the network is legitimate. If you use free public Wi-Fi, avoid online banking and other activities that require passwords or credit cards. Your personal hotspot is often a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi. And remember, only use sites that begin with “https://” when shopping or banking online.

Disable Auto-Connect

Most phones in the United States allow a device to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks. While this is a nice feature when used at home, it’s not something you should allow while traveling abroad. Before you travel, change this setting so your smartphone and laptop must be manually connected every time you want to access the internet.

Disable Bluetooth

Just like your phone’s automatic Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity can present problems. If your Bluetooth is on, cybercrooks can connect to your phone and potentially hack into your device. Keep Bluetooth disabled as much as possible.

Don’t Share Your Location

Limit what you post on social media. Seemingly random details are all a criminal needs to know to target you and your physical belongings — both online and in the real world. Limit the information you post regarding your specific whereabouts to reduce these threats. By signaling your every location, you make it easy for a criminal to determine that you’re not at home or in your hotel room, leaving your personal belongings vulnerable.

Security Controls and Patching

Even if the device you take on your trip is your own, make sure your device has anti-virus software and is completely up to date.