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How to secure your smartphone and tablet PC when travelling

Make sure your devices don't get hacked

We've become accustomed to having ready access to the internet just about anywhere. The problem is, it's easy to forget how vulnerable that makes us to security threats. We show you what's secure and what's not, and how to make sure your smartphones and tablet PCs don't get hacked the next time you step out of the house.

From coffee shops to planes, trains, and cruise ships, we've become accustomed to having ready access to the internet just about anywhere. The problem is, it's easy to forget how vulnerable that makes us to security threats.

I learned this the hard way recently when travelling from across the US, passing through four cities. Even though I'm well aware of the potential for others to hack into my devices, I'd never had any problems previously. Unfortunately, there's always a first time: When I got back home, Facebook alerted me to some suspicious activity. I had been 'Firesheep'd!'

Apparently someone in Chicago (using Firefox and a Windows PC) had logged into my Facebook account via Firesheep, a Firefox extension that can intercept unencrypted cookies from certain websites on any open Wi-Fi network, making it possible to steal login credentials for sites like Facebook and Twitter www.twitter.com , or even access your email.

Think it can't happen to you? Think again. Fortunately, a combination of plain old common sense and some technology can protect your devices - quickly and fairly easily.

How your gadgets may be vulnerable

Whether you're travelling with a laptop, netbook, smartphone, iPad or all of the above, the risks and defences against them are basically the same, according to Joe Nocera, an information security expert and a principal with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Many of the security concerns that people think about when they think about their personal computers are applicable in the mobile world." As mobile devices become more sophisticated, they lend themselves to the same types of access to email, passwords, and other secure information that PCs have done in the past.

Because today's devices are so much more powerful and can hold so much more information than ever before, the risks are increasing, says Martin Hack, information security expert and executive vice president of NCP Engineering, a software company that helps businesses with their secure remote access systems. Add to that our tendency to carry both personal and business information around with us on the same device, and our mobile devices have never looked so appealing to hackers, he says.

As specific mobile devices become more popular, they become more of a target for hackers. "Five years ago, the vulnerabilities were Microsoft-based and targeting PCs. Apple tended not to be targeted so often," says Nocera. "But, in the last year and a half or so, we're seeing a shift. More and more often we're seeing either Android- or iPhone-based vulnerabilities being targeted. We predict that by 2014 you'll see those types of vulnerabilities being the most targeted as more and more users go to those mobile devices."

The good news is it's not difficult or even expensive to protect your devices and the information on them. The fixes are simple. The problem, stated quite eloquently in an old Pogo comic strip, is: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

NEXT PAGE: 9 tips for keeping devices safe

  1. Make sure your devices don't get hacked
  2. 9 tips for keeping devices safe
  3. Even more tips
  4. If you still get hacked

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