Here's how you can protect yourself against cyber crimes when you're travelling

As outbound travel rises by the year, it's clear how much Singaporeans love their trips abroad. With so many of us taking flight for popular destinations like Japan, Thailand and South Korea, here's a handy checklist of 9 travel safety tips you can take along with your suitcases to help you keep cyber risks and crimes at bay while you're away from home.

1. Pre-flight checks

We're not just talking about keeping your window shades up or your seats upright before the plane takes off; it's important to ensure your smartphones and laptops have up-to-date operating systems and apps. These fraud prevention security measures are the first step in guarding against malware and other online threats.

2. All in lockdown

Keep your digital devices - smartphones, laptops, tablets, and your security device - locked and secure with a password, fingerprint or facial ID at all times. Strengthen your mobile security by shortening the time your smartphone's auto lock mechanism takes to kick in, so strangers have less of a chance to grab hold of your mobile's active screen and apps.

3. Keep your passwords private

Personal data protection is crucial. Don't reveal the passwords and pin numbers to your digital devices, credit or debit cards to anyone. Make sure you don't leave post-its or notes with your passwords written on them anywhere; some things are best committed to memory.

4. Beef up your passwords

On that note, don't choose common passwords containing dates, names or details that are well associated with you. A strong password won’t be a normal word or phrase, but a (seemingly) random combination of letters (both upper and lower case), numbers and symbols. It might look like hieroglyphics to a stranger, but it could hold a special meaning for you so you can easily remember it.

If you want to make reference to your wedding anniversary, it's not a good idea to set your password to the 5th October 2013 date you got hitched. Instead, you could set your password as Wgm051013iHP! to stand for 'We got married 5th October 2013 in Hort Park!'.

5. Be wary of public wifi

While it's tempting to connect to any free wifi network you can find instead of purchasing a local data plan for your smartphone, this can pose a security threat to your personal data, especially if you use unencrypted networks. If you must use the hotel wifi platform to get online, avoid accessing any sites or data that contain or require your personal information.

6. Keep sensitive information off public channels

If you have to use the computer, printer or phone at your hotel's business centre, make sure you're not using them to communicate sensitive information or private data. Log off completely on all the pages you open on public computers, especially if you've had to access your bank or email accounts.

7. Check the ATMs

One scam that has become more common in recent years is shell ATMs being set up to look exactly like the real thing, or ATM skimmers - malicious card readers - being attached to actual ATMs to steal your personal data on the card.

Here's how to spot a fake ATM. Does the pin shield detach easily from the machine? Are there two slots instead of just one to insert your card into the machine? Does the keypad feel strange to the touch? Does it look different from the machine next to it?

8. Keep track of your belongings

Make sure you keep your personal belongings accounted for while travelling. It's not a good idea to keep your cash, credit or debit cards, laptop, cellphone and passport all in the same place, because you might be left completely stranded in the unfortunate event of being pick-pocketed, while the perpetrator has access to even more of your private information. Keep your guard up especially in crowded areas or during times when you may be momentarily distracted - like when you're having a meal with a large group of people or waiting in line for a taxi.

9. One last step

The cybersecurity checklist doesn't end right when you board your return flight back. Be sure to log on to your online banking platform to check the transactions that you conducted while abroad, keeping an eye out for suspicious ones you may not have made.

If you used local networks or wifi platforms while you were overseas, your cellphone and laptop could be carrying spyware you're not aware of. Once you get home, update your security and antivirus software to the newest available versions, and change your device passwords.

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