How To Be Safe Online During Travel

If you want to access the Internet abroad with your notebook, tablet or smartphone, there is the same risk of viruses, worms and hackers as at home.

Make sure that the virus protection software and firewall on your laptop are up to date (see the “Update management” article for information on how to automate regular updates). The same applies to your smartphone or tablet. Keep your apps and operating system up to date. You should password protect your mobile devices, especially your smartphone, as well as all apps, data, and applications on them.

In the event of loss or theft, you can prevent misuse of the device or the data on it. Shortly after the update, the antivirus program and operating system may become obsolete. All security relevant systems should also be updated during the trip when you connect your device to the Internet. Depending on the connection (surf stick, hotel WLAN or similar), this data-intensive update can be expensive. If you do not have the possibility to keep your system up to date at a reasonable cost, it is better not to surf with your own device.

Read the story about what happened at the Rio Olympics:

Internet cafés and public computers

On public computers, you don’t know if the antivirus software and firewall on the computers are up to date. You can also infect external storage media such as USB sticks with viruses and worms. Subsequent users of the computer can easily track their activities using the browser’s history function, for example. With a little technical skill, they can also find out the confidential data you have entered, such as passwords – even if you have closed the Internet pages concerned and logged off.

  • Avoid entering confidential data on publicly accessible computers and avoid online banking and shopping at Internet cafés and other public computers (see also “Online shopping and banking” below).
  • Only connect external storage media such as USB sticks or SD cards if you are sure that the computers have up-to-date anti-virus software.
  • If you edit important files on external devices, save them more often (even during editing) on external media such as USB sticks. Do not edit sensitive information.
  • Carefully delete information that you have (temporarily) stored on public computers. This also applies to the browser’s “history directory”.

Mobile networks (hotspots)

Public Internet offers the possibility to go online with your own device at the airport or train station, in WLAN cafés or at other so-called hotspots. Here you should make sure that the connection is protected.

  • Only switch on wireless interfaces such as WLAN when in use.
  • If the hotspot has weak encryption (such as a short password) or no security settings at all, it is better not to use it.
  • Configure your operating system, your web browser and your e-mail programs restrictively: Use an operating system user account with limited access rights and never surf with administrator rights. Disable file and directory sharing for networks. Which shares exist on a Windows computer can be found in the Control Panel under Administration/Computer Management.
  • Adjust your firewall settings to a higher security level. In current Windows operating systems, Microsoft recommends that you specify a public location when connecting.

Online shopping and banking

In general, you should be particularly careful when shopping and banking online. Such activities are even riskier if you are not doing them from your usual workplace, but on the road.

You should avoid online shopping or banking when travelling. Always enter Internet addresses manually. Or use a bookmark where you are sure that the address is spelled correctly. Online criminals like to run similar-looking pages under addresses that contain a typical spelling error or hyphen more or less. Never follow links to bank or other business sites from emails. Make sure that your data is transmitted in encrypted form (e.g. you can tell that the address of the page begins with https://).

  • Check your account movements regularly and at frequent intervals.
  • Agree with your bank on a limit for daily money movements in online banking.

Protecting children

Making the Internet childproof within your own four walls is one thing. It gets more complicated when the children want to surf the Internet quickly in the Internet café or at the hotel PC in the holiday resort. Filter programs or access restrictions that can be used at home are missing on publicly accessible devices.

  • Remember that no child-friendly filter programs are usually installed on third-party computers. Talk to your child about dangers on the Internet. The BSI offers a checklist as a guideline for such a conversation.
  • Check the devices with which your child surfs for unsuitable content beforehand.

Communication via mobile phones

Mobile phones harbor risks you don’t immediately think about: Dangerous wireless content such as viruses and worms can be transmitted via interfaces such as WLAN.

  • Activate all wireless interfaces such as Bluetooth, NFC (Near Field Communication) and WLAN only for the time you need them.
  • Deactivate the establishment of data connections abroad in your smartphone. Smartphones and apps installed on them can send and receive data in the background, so that a high volume of data can be transferred unnoticed.

Social networking

As tempting as it may be to share the sunset snapshot with your friends at home: Move the presentation of your holiday photos on social networks like Facebook or Instagram to the time after your return. If you reveal on social networks that your house or apartment has been abandoned due to a trip, you increase the risk of becoming a burglar victim.