Article updated on November 15, 2021

Whether by plane, train, or automobile—traveling during the holidays is best summarized in one word... chaos.

It's inevitable that you will find yourself rushing through a jam-packed terminal while clinging to heavy bags and neatly wrapped presents. Doing the best you can not to lose sight of the kids or get run over by the masses of holiday travelers.

Kind of like a scene from a movie. 😉

We try to keep a mental checklist of everything we need to bring with us:

• Wallet: check
• Keys: check
• ID: check
• Computer: check
• Phone: ...

"Oh no, where's my phone??"

The panic that sets in as we dance the lost phone shimmy, frantically patting down every pocket on our bodies, trying to remember the last place we had our phone.

"Phew, my son swiped it to play Candy Crush... Phone, check!"

However, not all holiday travelers end up as lucky as temporarily misplacing a device. In fact, over 29 million devices are lost annually and to make matters worse, Kaspersky found that only 50% of people backup the data on their devices.

As if the large crowds and constant commotion weren't enough while traveling during the holiday season. Now, cyber criminals have thrown another wrench into your travel plans—one that requires extra precautions before you take off and extra vigilance while traveling.

Aside from remembering to pack your essential belongings, there are important steps you must take to make sure your data and devices remain unharmed while traveling during the busiest time of year.

Not to worry, we've put together a list of cybersecurity recommendations for holiday travelers below:

Things to do before you travel

1. BACKUP ALL OF YOUR DEVICES BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME

This may seem like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many people neglect to back up their data. If your device is lost, stolen, or broken during the holiday season—you will want to make sure all of your photos, videos, and contacts are safely stored elsewhere and can easily be restored.

2. UPDATE YOUR PASSWORDS

While the holiday spirit might entice you to let your guard down, cybersecurity experts recommend using different passwords for each account and app. If one of your accounts is hacked during the holiday season—criminals could gain access to many of your accounts since you reuse the same password. Also, it's the end of the year, you're most likely due for a password refresh anyway!

3. INSTALL ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE TO ALL OF YOUR DEVICES

If you're traveling with your laptop, tablet, or even smartphone—antivirus software is a must. Before leaving the house, do an update and scan to prevent unwanted bugs from infecting your holiday journey. It's easier than ever for cyber criminals to access and track your personal information so it is important to install antivirus on all of your devices.

4. UPDATE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM AND OTHER SOFTWARE

Make sure all of your devices have the latest updates before you head out on your travels for the holiday season. This will help keep your data safe from cyber criminals' latest tactics. In addition to updating your operating system, cybersecurity experts recommend also upgrading your internet browser to a newer version—and even using a private browsing feature in the process.

5. TURN ON TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION

Two-factor authentication creates stronger cybersecurity by requiring more than just a username and password, like a second piece of personal information to access an account.

6. USE A PASSCODE OR FINGERPRINT SENSOR

If you haven't done so already, it's always a good cybersecurity practice to set up a passcode or fingerprint lock on your device, especially if you are traveling for business and carrying a work phone around with sensitive corporate information.

Things to remember while you're traveling

7. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR DEVICES AT ALL TIMES

Cyber criminals can strike at any time, so don't let your guard down when you're on the go. If possible, don't get too distracted by holiday crowds or festivities and stick to carrying around a single device for communication. Also, don't walk away from your devices unattended while charging them, even if it's only for a few minutes.

8. DON'T DOWNLOAD OR OPEN UNKNOWN FILES

Let's face it—the internet is full of sophisticated cyber criminals. They know how to incorporate holidays and popular events into their phishing scams, so always think before you click on a link or open an attachment. Cyber criminals might pose as a government agency, such as the IRS or as popular brands, like Nintendo.

9. LIMIT YOUR USE OF PUBLIC WI-FI NETWORKS

Public Wi-Fi networks are convenient, but can also be dangerous. It is easy for cyber criminals to hack into public networks and hijack personal data or install viruses onto your device. Best cybersecurity practices require using a VPN—a secure private network that encrypts all of your internet activity—while on public networks.

10. TURN OFF THE AUTO-CONNECT FOR YOUR WI-FI DEVICE

Cybersecurity experts recommend turning off your phone's auto-connect feature so that your device does not automatically try to connect to the internet when other networks are in range. If cyber criminals have access to the network you are currently on, they could gain access to your device if it automatically connects to their network.

11. DISABLE LOCATION SERVICES FOR APPS

Cyber criminals can use applications to get access to user location data, like the "check-in" feature on Facebook. While cybersecurity experts recommend limiting your use of these apps while you're traveling for business, if they're necessary, cybersecurity best practices include disabling the "check-in" and geotagging features on all locations that do not need the specific location data.

In conclusion

The holiday season is a special time of year when many people take time off from work and travel to visit family or go on vacation. Unfortunately, cybersecurity threats for holiday travelers exist and can be quite serious if not addressed.

Traveling during the holidays is plenty stressful without having to deal with a stolen device or data breach. Cybersecurity experts recommend taking some extra cybersecurity precautions before heading out on your holiday travels since the holidays are a prime time for cyber criminals to strike. Cybersecurity is especially important for people who are traveling to or through airports, train stations, hotels, or other places that have public wi-fi access points.

By following our cybersecurity recommendations for holiday travelers in 2021, you can help protect yourself, your devices, and your sensitive data from ending up in the wrong hands.