Tech Tips for Traveling Over Winter Break | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh
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Tech Tips for Traveling Over Winter Break

Ahh, the fall semester is over, and it’s time to kick back and relax. Whether you’re visiting family across the state, hitting the slopes on the West Coast, or flying overseas for some fun, taking care of your tech and considering cybersecurity while traveling is a must.

Losing your devices over winter break is bad enough, but compromising your privacy and passwords can be an even bigger disaster! Never fear, traveling Panthers. Below are some handy tips and tricks to keep you, your devices, and your information safe. (If you do run into any tech problems during break, don’t hesitate to reach out to our 24/7 IT Help Desk!)

Prep Before You Go

Remove Confidential Information from Devices

It may seem tedious, but it’s vital to remove confidential and sensitive information from your devices before you embark on your travels. This can include financial information, private University data, and anything else you would not want available to the public. Double check before you leave that you didn’t remove any important travel documents for your trip that you might need.

Update Your Apps and Software

Find out if any of your devices or apps are in need of a software update. While you’re at it, make sure your antivirus software is up to date too. The most recent patches and updates are imperative to ensure that potential security vulnerabilities that have been identified by the manufacturer are locked down tighter than Fort Knox.

Internet & Connections

Do not use public Wi-Fi or devices without PittNet VPN

It may be tempting to connect to free Wi-Fi at rest stops or the airport, or the public workstations in the hotel lobby, but these connections are not secure and can compromise your device and the accounts you log into. If you do find yourself needing to use unsecured Wi-Fi to access University data, make sure you’re using PittNet VPN.

Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

It’s crucial to disable automatic Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connection settings when you’re not actively using them. Hackers and other harmful entities can use these connections to access your device. So be sure to turn off automatic Bluetooth pairing or Wi-Fi connections. Better yet, turn these services off entirely except when you’re using them.

Device Health & Safety

Protect Your Devices

It’s important that your devices stay secure and safe while traveling. Make sure that you have a proper case for your laptop that has a separate sleeve so other items don’t rattle around and damage it. The bag should ideally employ anti-theft protection (a lock or locking cables, anti-slash material, and secret pockets). A tracker dot or Find My Phone app is ideal if you find that you have misplaced your device.

Guarding Against the Environments

Whether you're on the slopes or on the beach, it’s important to protect your devices from the natural elements. Keep your devices out of direct sunlight and cold weather … both weather extremes can do severe damage to your laptop and smartphone. Consider buying a waterproof case/pouch or put your electronics into tightly sealed bags to protect them from the elements. Consider buying a waterproof backpack or tote (see our Holiday Tech Gift Guide blog) for your electronics while on-the-go.

Keep it With You Always

Never leave your devices unattended, even if you’re just getting up to go to the bathroom. The last thing you need during your winter break is to lose one of your valuables! Keep them on your person at all times when you’re in the airport or station to prevent damage and theft. Use hotel safes to lock away your devices when you’re out. And if you do lose a device that stores any University data, make sure to contact the 24/7 IT Help Desk as soon as you notice it’s missing.

Avoid Oversharing

Don’t Give Out Your E-mail

Many retailers ask for your email to join loyalty programs, to email receipts, or for the mailing list. Since this is not your home base, just avoid giving it out entirely. The more your email is out there, the more opportunities there are for people to steal it or exploit it. You’ll be drowning in spam and potentially the target of phishing attempts.

Pay by Credit

When making an online or in person purchase you should always use a credit card. If the retailer or person is asking you to wire money directly to them, it is likely a scam. Be vigilant in checking your credit card statements during the winter break to make sure you haven’t been targeted. Even using a debit card can be a risk if someone takes a peek at the card number.

Don’t Tag or Reveal Your Location

Nothing says, “Rob me!” quite like announcing that you’re not at home. Lurking cybercriminals will wait to see posts that indicate you’re traveling to try to hack your accounts or even rob your home. Instead, save all the pics of your trip and share them in an album when you get back. If you do share pics live, be sure you don’t tag your location. Some of the people around you aren’t just fellow travelers. They may be hackers waiting to find someone who tags they are in the same location. Armed with information about you from your social media presence, they can then attempt to breach your devices.

Happy Holidays!

Follow these tech tips and tricks to ensure your peace of mind over winter break, so you can enjoy your well-earned rest and relaxation. See you in 2022!

-- By Vivian Zauhar, Pitt IT Student Blogger