From coffee shops to planes, trains, and cruise ships, we've become accustomed to having ready access to the Internet just about anywhere using our smartphones. For most of us, our lives revolve around our phones with hundreds of business emails per day, contacts, browsing, social networking and what not. With all this power quite literally in your palms, it's easy to forget how vulnerable this makes us to security threats. UNIGLOBE experts talk about a few tips that safeguard your smartphone while on the go.

You're traveling with a laptop, netbook, smartphone, iPad, or all of the above, the risks and defenses against them are basically the same. Many of the security concerns that people think about when they think about their personal computers are applicable in the mobile world. As mobile devices become more sophisticated, they lend themselves to the same types of access to e-mail, passwords, and other secure information that PCs have done in the past.

How Your Gadgets May Be Vulnerable

As specific mobile devices become more popular, they become more of a target for hackers. Five years ago, the vulnerabilities were Microsoft-based and targeting PCs. Apple tended not to be targeted so often. But, in the last year and a half or so, we're seeing a shift. More and more often we're seeing either Android- or iPhone-based vulnerabilities being targeted. The prediction is that by 2014 you'll see those types of vulnerabilities being the most targeted as more and more users go to those mobile devices.

The good news is it's not difficult or even expensive to protect your devices and the information on them.

Tips for Keeping Your Mobile Devices Secure

  1. Make sure your software is up-to-date.The first line of defense, is making sure that all your software is up-to-date. Almost every release of software patches a number of security vulnerabilities that are out there. Before every trip, or at least every few weeks, it's a good idea to check the manufacturer's Web site (or search Google) to see if a software or firmware update is available.
  2. Employ strong passwords. Be sure to use some combination of letters, numbers and/or special characters of 8 characters or more.Avoid using dictionary words. Instead, [use] acronyms for things like favorite songs, restaurants or other items known only to you. And change the password frequently--at least once every six months.
  3. Don't mess with the security settings.Most of the default browser settings in Android, iPhone, and Blackberry phones are fairly secure out of the box. Experts recommend not to change your browser security settings--they're pretty good already.
  4. Avoid unencrypted public wireless networks. Such Wi-Fi networks require no authentication or password to log into, so anyone can access them. Encrypted networks, on the other hand, are those that require an ID or password for access--you'll find such networks at many hotels and coffee shops that offer Wi-Fi services. These networks have two different types of security--WEP (wired equivalent privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi protected access); the second is most secure.
  5. Paying to access a Wi-Fi network doesn't mean it's secure. Access fees do not equal security. Just because you pay a fee to access a Wi-Fi network doesn't mean that the network is secure.
  6. URLs beginning with 'https:' are safer Whenever you're accessing a site where you'll be sharing personal or confidential information--your bank's site, for example--you want to make sure that you're doing so securely. The s inhttps means that you're connected to the site via the Secure Socket Layer (SSL). In layman's terms, this means that all data transmitted to that particular Website over the Internet is encrypted.
  7. Turn off cookies and autofill. If your mobile device automatically enters passwords and login information into Websites you visit frequently, turn that feature off. It's convenient, but it can also be a privacy threat. Mac OS X, for instance, comes with a built-in password manager--Keychain. KeePass is a free, open-source password manager for some versions of Windows. For iOS and Android smartphones, there's LastPass, 1Password, and SplashID.

If You Still Get Hacked...
If you do everything right and still have your information stolen, what should you do? The damage can often be repaired simply by changing your password (to one much stronger) and sending a message via the network that was affected, explaining what happened. What if one of your devices gets stolen? Be sure that all of your mobile devices have a remote wipe or autowipe feature. For Apple's iPhone and iPad, there's Apple'sMobileMe service. GoogleApps offers a solution for Android as well. If your device is lost or you know there's been a breach, you can quickly and remotely perform a factory reset from any computer connected to the Internet, wiping out all of the device's data and even locking it indefinitely.

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