Safe Computing Tips

By Paul Riegler on 20 April 2010
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The gadgets we travel with and rely on, be they laptops, smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, or thumb drives, add a certain amount of risk to our travels as well.

Many people fail to take basic precautions, such as password protecting all devices in order to minimize exposure in the event of loss or theft.

Make sure your laptop or tablet has both a power-on password and a hard drive password. If entering a password is too much trouble, get a laptop with a fingerprint reader. Ditto for smartphones: use a password.

When choosing a password, choose what is considered a “strong” password, one that is not a dictionary word and one that combines letters and numbers (for example, trav123eler). The most popular (and most insecure) passwords include “123456,” “12345,” “iloveyou,” “monkey,” “qwerty,” “chocolate,” and (amazingly enough) “password.”

When traveling, only log in to known hotspots. So-called “evil twins” are hotspots set up by hackers that seem legitimate but can capture your personal information and passwords. They are increasingly found in public and semi-public venues including hotels and airports.

For ultimate security, consider using a mobile broadband solution (offered by AT&T, Clearwire, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S.). The monthly cost of a typical data plan ($60 per month) typically turns out to be far less than paying a hotel’s $10-20 per diem Internet charge.

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