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When traveling for business, on vacation, or visiting family for the holidays, it’s important to be cautious with your gear. That includes everything from your luggage to your laptop. We Ripplers have a few tips to help you avoid the traveling blues by keeping your technology safe and secure.

1. Save the updates for at home Before hitting the road, make sure your operating system and apps are completely up-to-date. Don’t update at the hotel, even if prompted to do so by the hotel’s Wi-Fi. The reason? Well, this “update” could allow cybercriminals to install malware that monitors everything you do on your computer—including when you type in email addresses and passwords. Hackers might jack your email account and send unsavory spam to your listed contacts and others. And some malware can even turn on your webcam and record whatever is going on in the room. Really.

2. Turn it on While this isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get a virus while on vacation, making sure your antivirus software is up-to-date and running will go a long way toward protecting your computer and private data. If you have an internal firewall, turn it on as well. And for Mac users, if you really want to go the extra mile, turn on Filevault. None of this will guarantee a virus-free vacation, but it’s a heck of a lot safer than doing nothing.

3. Back it up Just in case something does happen to your computer while on vacation, you’ll want to backup the data on your computer to a hard drive or the cloud before you leave home. This way, you won’t lose everything should your computer get stolen or get infected with a virus.

4. If it’s not encrypt you must a’quit Ideally, you should only use hotel Wi-Fi connections that are encrypted with WPA2. To find out, try to connect to the network. You’ll be prompted to enter the password for it in your wireless network settings. This is where your network manager should tell if the network is encrypted by WEP, WPA or WPA2. If you’re still not sure, ask the front desk or whatever contact technical support number is listed on the login screen. Also, be aware that hackers have been known to create fake wireless networks and web sites that mimic the name of a legitimate hotel or business. So, again, ask the front desk or contact technical support to be sure of the hotel network’s correct name and settings. And if you’re going to be accessing your company’s network, do it through VPN (virtual private network). If you’re a Ripple client, ask us how to set that up. If not, check out this tutorial.

5. Lock it up This may seem like common sense, but when you’re on vacation it’s pretty easy to let your guard down in ways you never would at home. So, if you’re planning to stay in a hotel, get a room with a safe and keep your computer in it. If toting that laptop around with you in a car, put it in the trunk before you head out, and do it before you get in the parking lot of your destination. A ton of stuff goes missing from vehicles during the holiday season, and it’s always a good idea to keep your expensive tech hidden from prying eyes.

Well, that’s all folks. Don’t let your worries about IT security keep you from having a good time when you travel. And don’t let a good time keep you from being smart when traveling. Turn that lock screen function on, set that screen saver password, and never trust an unknown wireless network. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to pack a snack whether you’re flying or driving. If I’ve learned one thing from watching standup comics, it’s that fast food and plane snacks aren’t very satisfying.