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Surfer Beware!

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Have you ever had that feeling that you forgot something?  Maybe it was on that to-do list you left behind…or maybe it was from leaving home in such a hurry that you just aren’t sure that you closed the garage door. Remember the scene from the classic movie Home Alone, when Kevin’s parents realize that they left him behind in the rush to make their family flight to Paris?  We’ve all had moments like that and it ain’t pretty.  Sometimes is an irrational thought process…but sometimes, like Kevin, something very important gets left behind.

If you are a traveler, you have many important things to remember.  One thing that can easily be cast aside as an innocent act is to go into the business center of a hotel or a public internet café to check emails, pay bills, stalk facebook or see what your stocks are doing.  Well….Surfer Beware!!!

Do not…I repeat DO NOT walk away from any shared computers without logging off. If you just close your window or browser, you never know who is lurking around the corner, ready to belly up to that computer to have a look around the last user’s mailbox for log-in credentials and other sensitive information.

There are other ways travelers may unwittingly put their online security at risk while using shared hotel or internet café computers, and getting a virus in more ways than one is just the beginning. A business center computer that you have no administrative rights over can easily have spyware that records your information as you surf the web and type. That means malware can easily snap screen-shots and record your usernames and passwords.

We leave boxes checked to ‘remember me’ on this computer, which results in a cookie installed that keeps your log-in information going. Beyond spyware and malware, there’s nothing from stopping a criminal from plugging an external keycatcher into the public machine that will later be retrieved with all of your and every other business traveler’s information on it. The biggest online security risk is our own stupidity because we are in a hurry or just clueless.

So, what is the smartest alternative to this at-risk scenario? It’s simple; just follow any one of these simple pieces of advice:

-Use your own mobile device for whatever internet usage you need that would require passwords, social security numbers, or any kind of personal information

-Use a removable flash-drive

– Look at overviews rather than specifics (check out the stock market, but don’t visit your e-trade accounts),

-Get your ducks in a row before you go: Pay your bills in advance (or set up autopay)… wait until you get home to make that purchase on ebay, amazon, or ticketmaster… have copies of your important travel documents (your flight itinerary, hotel confirmation) stored with you in a safe place…. call your credit card companies if you are traveling internationally to alert them of possible charges and avoid potential fraud alerts being implemented.

-If you must use a public computer for personal means, remember Mister Miyagi: “wax on, wax off”….log in, log off!