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Going On the Road? 5 Tips to Stay Safe Online

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During International Fraud Awareness Week, Payza is joining hundreds of other businesses and agencies in shining a spotlight on fraud in order to promote awareness, detection and prevention. Follow the Payza blog this week for insights on global fraud and tips on how to protect yourself and your business.

With the holiday season – and colder weather – quickly approaching, people are on the move to visit family, friends, and warmer climates (hopefully with a beach). They may be in between locations, but they are still connected.  It’s increasingly common to get free Wi-Fi almost anywhere you go: cafes, hotels, airports and train stations – even on buses, trains and airplanes! So even on the move you’re able to stay connected, but how can you be sure your connection is safe?

The risks are no different whether you’re connecting to a public network with your laptop, smartphone or tablet. The myth that Apple products, such as iMacs, iPhones and iPads have a more secure connection than PCs is untrue. Today’s devices are capable of carrying so much information (and most users keep both personal and business information on the same device) that it’s no surprise that hackers are as prevalent as ever.

For public hotspots, you can’t treat these connections like your secured home or workplace networks – the flip-side of free Wi-Fi is that anyone can connect to it, including criminals. When you’re sharing the same unsecured network with hundreds of strangers, there’s a lot that can go wrong. The key is to remember that these connections may not be secure, so you need to take extra measures to secure them yourself.

Don’t Give Hackers the Opportunity

It goes without saying that the safest thing you can do is to avoid shared network altogether, that way, the only way you could be hacked is to have your computer or mobile device physically stolen from you. Unfortunately, this is a very real threat in places such as bus or train stations, where hundreds of people or more pass through every day, which is why you should never let your devices leave your side and never leave your bags unattended.

When connecting to the internet, it might be a good idea to avoid unsecured networks. Public Wi-Fi networks which are protected by a password are safer because they are accessed by less people and cannot be accessed remotely.

But let’s be realistic, public Wi-Fi is all about convenience and for travellers, nothing can be more convenient than a fast, free connection. Whether you’re working remotely or just looking to check-in to your favorite social networks, you’re probably going to be using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection pretty regularly. So here are some tips for using a public network without putting yourself at risk:

1. Update your browsers, apps and anti-virus programs: Hackers are always finding new ways to infiltrate your computer. Most software updates, among other things, patch the latest known security vulnerabilities in your browsers and anti-virus software. Make sure to always stay up-to-date.

2. Disable cookies: Cookies allow websites to remember your preferences which makes for a more enjoyable online experience, but cookies can also be used for evil. Some sites will try to automatically download viruses or data-harvesting software onto your computer, but with cookies disabled, this won’t be possible. These links will help you disable cookies on Chrome and Firefox:

3. Don’t enter personal information into online forms: Online shopping, for example, requires the transmission of personal financial data. Fraudsters that are also tapped into a shared public network could be able to intercept that data, which might leave you a long way from home with an empty bank account.

4. Don’t access your email: It can be hard to resist, but accessing your email on a public network can expose a massive amount of personal information. Even if you are careful never to send any sensitive information over email, hackers can still hijack your contact list and use your account to send phishing emails.

5. Don’t advertise your absence: The popularity of geo-tagging on social media is a troubling thing. By “checking in” and advertising your location on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’re really advertising to potential burglars that you’re not at home. So go ahead and share that funny article or beautiful photo, but be careful not to highlight the fact that your home is unguarded.

We all love the internet, which is why it’s so easy to forget that it can still be a pretty risky place. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to disconnect from time to time, especially if you’re on vacation! But when you do connect to a public Wi-Fi network, just remember to be extra vigilant and take those extra steps to protect your personal data.