Times have changed. It’s becoming more and more common for the over-60s to use the web to find out the latest news, do their banking, buy their weekly shopping, book trips abroad and keep
up-to-date with their families on social networks.
Seniors are also using the internet more when they travel, too. But unfortunately, cybercriminals know how important online communication is to travellers, which is why they often target them through internet cafes and Wi-Fi hot spots.
A naïve - or careless - senior traveller could find their computer or phone infected with a virus, email hacked into, even much-needed money lost through malicious software programmes.
The good news is that there are a number of simple steps you can take to protect your computer when you travel.
Before you go
- Run a free virus scan on your computer to make sure it’s clean, and install the most up-to-date anti-virus software on it.
- Install a firewall on their computer, and make sure it’s enabled.
- Save a portable internet browser – like Firefox Portable or Google Chrome Portable – onto a USB drive/memory stick and tell them to only use this when accessing the web on a public computer.
- Back up your data onto a hard drive so you won’t lose everything if their computer does get infected.
- Remove any important, sensitive information from their computer and phone – like banking details, credit/debit card numbers, login information, passwords, etc.
- Ensure they password protect all of their electronic devices with different, strong passwords that use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
The popularity of internet cafes makes them the most obvious risk for cyber viruses. In addition to malicious viruses, a known tactic on public computers is the installation of key logging software. Through these programmes, everything that’s typed in is recorded – potentially providing hackers with email/Facebook logins and passwords and even credit card numbers.
Avoiding the public computer’s browser through the use of a portable internet browser will side step many risks, but if you have to use a public computer make sure you follow these steps:
- Confirm with the owner that the computers have the most up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spam software
- Never enter any sensitive, personal information – and don’t do online banking
- Open a new browser to go online – don’t use one that’s already opened
- Use Gmail for your email, as all the information is encrypted
- Make sure you sign out of every secure website manually, and clear the browser’s history menu, cache and cookies when you’ve finished your session.
While using your own computer is safer than public computers, it’s still not without risks.
- Using Wi-Fi connections – before logging in you should double check the Wi-Fi account name with the manager and ensure that the network is encrypted. Cybercriminals are known to set up fake Wi-Fi accounts that can provide them with easy access to a device’s information, even credit card details if they’re asked to pay for the Wi-Fi connection.
- The danger of pop-ups – many hotels have had their guests targeted when they try to connect to the internet. A pop-up window appears claiming that they need to update a well-known software programme. If they click on this, malicious software is installed that can monitor everything that’s done on the computer, including even activating the webcam. You shouldn’t ever click on a pop-up, even to close it – instead they should force quit the browser.
- You should never allow anyone to use your computer/electronic device or connect to your devices with a USB or portable device – scammers have been known to install viruses and other malicious software when given this opportunity.
- You should routinely check for viruses during your trip.
- Don’t forget your phone – you should set up your phone’s security by using anti-virus apps.
The safest thing to do on your return is to assume that your computer could be harbouring a virus or other malicious software. You should run a check on your computer – as well as your USB drive, iPod, phones, etc – to make sure they’re safe before using them at home.
It might seem that there are many risks to using electronic devices while travelling, but it all really comes down to taking a few simple precautions and using common sense online to help ensure your digital security while you’re on the go.
Note: Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He writes about tech and pop culture, and is interested in geeky news, web trends, social networks, sci-fi films and graphic novels.