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Summer is here and with it comes vacation plans for many. If you’re looking to take some time away from work and home, you’re likely making plans to secure your home, have pets taken care of, and tie up loose ends at work. But how about securing your devices and your personal data while you’re away?

open quote symbol Cybercrime losses in the travel industry could top $25 billion by 2020, according to a study by eNett International. close quote symbol

Here are some cyber security-themed travel tips to consider as you eagerly plan your next adventure:

Keep your Travel Plans Private

The lead-up to the vacation is almost as exciting as the vacation itself. It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement and jump on Facebook to tell all your friends about your upcoming trip. The problem is, unless you have very strict privacy settings, people who aren’t your friends could see that announcement, too. And really, how well do you know that girl you passed in the hallway in high school 30 years ago?


Discussing your travel plans (specifically the dates you’ll be gone) opens you up to a physical security issue. Criminals are known to watch social media in order to target homes they know will be vacant for robbery. So best to wait until you get back until you start posting those trip photos.

Beware of Fraudulent Booking Sites

It's rare to plan a trip these days without online booking — but online travel booking sites are increasingly targeted by criminals. A 2015 study by the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that about 15 million hotel bookings are impacted by rogue travel scams each year.

With new chip and pin cards, it's become much more difficult for thieves to steal credit card numbers at point-of-sale locations — and that's why thieves are now focusing on websites, explained Karl Mattson, chief information security officer at City National Bank.


open quote symbol Any website where you're entering card data is risky, close quote symbol

Mattson said. He suggested using alternative payment methods, such as PayPal, ApplePay and Zelle, to avoid entering your credit card information online. These methods are less susceptible to fraud, Mattson said.

Don’t Forget About Your Unused Loyalty Points

If you're a frequent traveler, you likely have digital items of value to criminals, such as frequent flyer miles and other loyalty points and memberships. ThreatMetrix estimates there are more than $50 million in travel industry loyalty points lying dormant in accounts, ripe for takeover by fraudsters who sell them at rock bottom prices on the dark web, or use them to buy an array of retail merchandise.

For instance, according to a Toronto news report, one man and woman allegedly stole $23,000 worth of merchandise through the Air Miles website by using stolen points at various retail stores. If you've racked up loyalty points through a favourite airline or hotel chain, those points could be vulnerable.


open quote symbol Keep your boarding pass private, as it may include identification that would make it easier for thieves to not only access your frequent flyer account but other personal information as well. Never post a boarding pass photo online, and securely dispose of your pass after a flight, close quote symbol

— said Frank McKenna, Senior Director, Corporate Security Management.

Also, use a strong password for your frequent flyer account and set up alerts for fraudulent activity on your account, just as you would for a bank account.

Be Proactive!

Take proactive steps to secure your devices and your personally identifiable information before you travel.

While your phone’s physical safety is important, it’s equally as important to protect the data you have stored on it; everything from your passwords, to credit cards numbers, and bank account details.


Keep your mobile software updated

When travelling treat your mobile device like your home or work computer, explained McKenna. Keep your operating system software and apps updated, which will improve your device’s ability to defend against malware. Back up your information. Back up your contacts, photos, videos and other mobile device data with another device or cloud service.

Check back soon for more great tips to staying cyber safe while you’re at your destination.

July 22, 2019


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Some of the content in this article was originally published in an article by City National Bank, an affiliate of RBC Wealth Management and a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada.

© 2019 Royal Bank of Canada. Used with permission.