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HindustanTimes Tue,29 Jul 2014

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Holiday cyber safety
AFP
July 07, 2014
First Published: 11:38 IST(7/7/2014)
Last Updated: 11:46 IST(7/7/2014)

It might be impossible to take a complete break from technology this summer, but if you do have to pack the smartphone and tablet alongside the swimsuit and SPF 50 make sure you also take some high-tech precautions to ensure you only come back from your vacation with happy memories.

When on holiday, it's all too easy to drop your technological guard, especially when everyone else is taking full advantage of fee poolside wi-fi or complementary computers in the lobby.

Being a bit too open on a network that is by definition public can lead to one or two nasty cyber surprises, and if the device being compromised happens to be the company smartphone or notebook, things can get much worse.

A Cisco study published in June shows that more than three quarters of UK employees (77%) that work at large companies pack their work devices when heading off on holiday and that 72 % tend to spend between one and two hours every day of the vacation connected with the office and keeping up to date with what's happening.

However, the biggest surprise in terms of the survey's findings was that although 69 % of those polled said that they were fully aware of the risks associated with using their devices remotely, 60 % admitted that they did not even check the security of a wi-fi network before connecting to it while on holiday.

That doesn't mean that wi-fi should be off limits on holiday, but it does mean that its use should be kept to very specific tasks. Treat it as a public space and don't use it for anything you wouldn't be happy to share publicly -- e.g., you might tell a stranger that you support a certain football team, but you wouldn't tell them your banking details. And public wi-fi is no different. Surf, yes, log into email or bank accounts, no.

This goes double for complementary computers in hotel lobbies that could be packed full of key-loggers and other malware. Don't even think about using them for visiting any site that requires a password login.

As well as being careful about cyber security, make sure that devices themselves are safe. Back up all tablets, smartphones and notebooks before heading off on holiday and make sure that they all have the passcodes turned on and that the Apple activation lock or the Android device manager features are activated, so that a handset can be tracked if it gets lost or stolen.

The number of reported iPhone thefts in several major cities, including New York and London, has dropped dramatically since Apple introduced the activation lock in September. It enables iPhone and iPad owners to remotely wipe the contents of their devices, lock them and track them, making them worthless to thieves.

And, as the data collected by the New York State Attorney General's office shows, the feature is working. Between January and May 2014, theft of Apple devices dropped by 17 % in New York, while in San Francisco iPhone thefts dropped by 38 % in the first six months after Apple launched the feature in September 2013. London also saw a drop in Apple handset thefts of 24 % over the same period but as a result also reported a rise in the number of thefts of other, non-Apple smartphones that don't have the same killswitch functionality.


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