If you’re going on vacation and planning to check your email while away, do these 2 simple steps:
1) change your email password just before you leave
2) change it back when you return homeEver see those movies where the bad guys put fake keyboards on ATM’s, or put special monitoring software or cameras up to grab someone’s keystrokes? Those aren’t just fiction, people really do that.
If you’re thinking “I don’t care if they see my email, I have nothing to hide” then you’re missing it: they can reset all your banking and other passwords using the “I forgot my password” tricks, and then make off with various things including your money, privacy, possessions, even frequent flier miles.
When you’re away from your home, you don’t have as many guarantees – Internet cafes are perfect for criminals: they are public, rarely supervised, and they have a huge number of people coming through to just “check email quickly”, happily typing their password into Gmail, Yahoo, or other web mail sites that look safe. A clever criminal can completely fake a web interface to look 100% like google (even saying “gmail.com” in the address bar).
Here’s what you can do depending on your level of concern on the topic:
– mild – do nothing, use a strong password for email and don’t reuse that password for any other accounts
– moderate – change the email password – if compromised, it will have limited damage compared with your regular password being known.
– severe – use a VPN connection from your computer when on vacation, this creates a secure “tunnel” to a trusted network back home. Requires you bringing your own device (laptop, tablet, etc) and will usually be a slightly slower, but certainly more secure connection. Usually too much of an annoyance for most people.
You can’t completely stop criminals – a single rogue NSA contractor did irreparable damage to an entire country – but you can create enough hassle and restrictions for potential thieves to help reduce the likelihood of annoying and potentially expensive problems down the road.