Tag Archives: travel

10 Tips for Safe Holiday Travel

Preparing for a travel holiday involves a huge amount of planning. In today’s world where many things have become faster and easier to achieve with the aid of modern technology you’d think there would be less to consider when going away, but technology can actually add to the list of concerns rather than shortening it.

So before you head off on your travels, consider these 10 tech tips that can help make your holiday safer and less costly while still staying connected.

  1. Roaming Fees
    Check that your mobile is going to work internationally. Even if you don’t intend using it’s there in case of emergencies. Contact your carrier to see if they have a calling plan for the country you are visiting. For example, some phone carriers offer travel packs or roaming options for most places you might visit. Spending between $20-95 initially, dependent on location, can end up saving you hundreds of dollars expense when roaming without a plan.
  1. Controlling Data Usage
    Apps running in the background can eat away at your data and run up expensive charges without you knowing. Going through every app and adjusting data usage settings is a big task, so switching off data roaming completely and only using apps when connected to Wi-Fi is a simple way of keeping data costs under control.
  1. Wi-Fi Safety
    Using public networks in coffee shops, airports and hotels can help you stay connected, however caution should be taken when connecting to them. Avoid disclosing any sensitive information when using a free Wi-Fi hotspot, including banking, credit card information or other personal data. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) — software that protects your data by encrypting it — so that when using public Wi-Fi networks your data can’t be intercepted.
  1. Audit Apps
    Make sure that you update all the apps on your device before leaving home. Also, take the time to remove the ones that you no longer need, they may be using valuable space, consuming power or using data in the background.
  1. Security Software
    The most important software for your protection online is an antivirus app, as it will help keep you safe when browsing for tourist information on the go. If you don’t already have one, you should install one like AVG AntiVirus for Android.
  1. Anti-theft Software
    Enable and register your device to protect it against theft. AVG Antivirus for Android has an anti-theft option that allows you to lock, locate and, if necessary, wipe your device if it is lost or stolen.
  1. Location Data
    Switch off location based services for apps that don’t need them. Posting a picture online with location data switched on can reveal to burglars that you aren’t home. It may also reveal to pickpockets and thieves your exact location and make you a potential target.
  1. Credit Cards and ATMs
    Inform your bank that you’ll be travelling and where you’re travelling to. This will avoid any transactions being declined because they’re outside of your normal banking habits.Unfamiliarity with the environment might tempt you into using ATMs in locations that aren’t necessarily safe. If possible always use an ATM at a bank. Also, watch out for devices or odd attachments on ATMs — they might be devices that criminals use to skim (copy) your card.When shopping try and use a credit card instead of your debit card that connects to your bank account. If you have new wireless payment cards consider getting a protected wallet.
  1. Using the cloud
    Using cloud storage for your data can be really convenient. If someone steals your device it means you can still have access to your data, be it photos, travel documents or flight itineraries.
  1. Lastly, use your instinct and have a great vacation.



Cybersecurity tips for business travelers

business trip - working late

Sensitive business data is at risk when you travel. Take precautions to protect it.

Cybersecurity is not limited to your office or home. Nowadays, many of us use the same devices for work and personal business, so when traveling we need to be extra diligent to protect our devices and the data we have on them. If you use common sense and a bit of Avast technology, all your devices – laptops, smartphones, and tablets, can remain secure wherever you are.

Here are a few things you can do before you go and while you’re on-the-road:

1. Install antivirus protection. Your first and best line of defense on your PC or Android device is antivirus protection. Install it and make sure it is up-to-date.

2. Keep your operating system and software up-to-date. Hackers take advantage of software with security holes that have not been plugged, so take time regularly to make sure that your software and apps have patches and updates applied.

3. Lock down your device. Make it a habit to lock your PC and phone with a PIN, password, or even a fingerprint. Avast Mobile Security even allows you to password-protect your apps. Before you travel, make sure your critical apps, like access to your bank, are protected.

4. Turn off auto-connect. If you have your phone set to automatically detect and connect to available wireless networks, then turn it off. It’s much better to choose yourself. The new Avast W-Fi Finder can help you find secure Wi-Fi hotspots. Look for it to be released soon.

5. Avoid unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. Free Wi-Fi hotspots sure are nice, but they are not worth the risk to your personal data. They are unsecured and can give cybercrooks access to your internet-enabled devices. The safest way to use free Wi-Fi, even that supplied by your hotel, is to connect via a virtual private network, otherwise known as a VPN. The name sounds complicated, but with Avast SecureLine VPN, it is as easy as pushing a button.

6. Use smart passwords. Using a password like 1234 or password is not a smart thing to do at any time. But discovering that your account was hacked when you are traveling can ruin your trip. Plan ahead and manage your passwords in an intelligent way. There are plenty of memory tricks you can use to create unique passwords or you can let a password manager take care of the heavy lifting for you. Look for a new Avast password manager coming soon.

7. Think before you overshare. There are differing opinions about oversharing your location on social networks. Some say that broadcasting to the world that you are away invites a burglar into your home. Others say that broadcasting your whereabouts with regular updates is security in and of itself, because your friends and family know where you are in case something happens. And it could protect your contacts from the “I was arrested in Niagara Falls and need you to send bail money via Western Union” scam. Talk with your family and decide how you want to handle that.

8. Guard your devices. Thieves often target travelers. Don’t let yourself get so distracted that you lose track of your devices. Install Avast Anti-Theft before you leave. One of its useful features is called Geofencing. This allows you to set a perimeter, say around a table at an airport cafe, and if your mobile phone leaves that perimeter, an alarm will sound. If you discover any time that your smartphone or tablet has been stolen, Avast Anti-theft lets you control your cell phone remotely. You can locate and track your lost phone, remotely lock or wipe the memory, and even activate a customizable siren or alarm.

The best thing about all these tools is that they are free (or in the case of SecureLine, a free trial), so the next time you start packing for your business trip, make sure that your devices are ready to go too.

Follow Avast on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Google+ where we keep you updated on cybersecurity news every day.

The Value of an Unplugged Vacation

In keeping with tradition, each year my husband Bob and I gather some of our 14 nieces and nephews and do an annual diving trip. Generally we provide diving lessons to each of the children as they come of age. This year, we did an “alumni” trip for all of the kids who have participated before.

It was truly awesome – and all about diving, eating and sleeping and, then… repeat.

We also had a no-devices-allowed policy. So each evening we had dinner at the big pagoda on the beach. Afterwards, all of us in hammocks. And every night we had amazing conversations!

I was most struck by my young nieces and nephews’ views on how nice it was to be unplugged… Thoughts on how intrusive the internet and smart devices have become in their young lives…I.e. If you don’t text back in real-time, you could lose a friend who thinks you are being unresponsive… (Sound familiar?)

But they really reveled in the opportunity to get away from it all. It wasn’t just me, but kids!

It started me thinking in general about the value of vacations, but especially unplugged ones.

The benefits of taking a vacation are well documented, and practical. Pluses include higher productivity, improved morale, better employee retention, and a better overall workplace culture. That’s just in the workplace. The health benefits for the individual are evident too and should concern all of us.

Numerous studies have shown that vacations lower blood pressure and ease depression…and that even looking forward to a vacation brings major dividends. In just one example, the widely regarded Framingham Heart Study, a long-term ongoing cardiovascular study that began in 1948 to analyze adult subjects who were at risk of heart disease, found a positive correlation between more frequent vacations and longer healthier lives.

But did you know that more than 40% of American workers who received paid time off did not take all of their allotted time in 2013—even despite the obvious personal benefits? This is according to the most recent study entitled “An Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S.” commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group, and completed by Oxford Economics. The study found, among other things, that we as workers left an average of 3.2 paid time off days unused in 2013, which adds up to 429 million unused days off.

The fact is many people who don’t take vacations are not only hurting themselves and their own productivity. They’re also hurting our country’s economy. And in terms of the overall economy, the Oxford/USTA study found that if employees would take just one additional day of earned leave each year, the result would mean $73 billion in output for the U.S. economy and positive impacts for both employees and businesses.

It has lead to some innovative workplace policies. One of the most intriguing is a Denver-base tech company’s Paid Paid Vacation policy. Bart Lorang, co-founder and CEO of the Denver-based tech company FullContact introduced “Paid Paid Vacation” in 2012. In addition to the standard 15 days paid vacation plus federal holidays (allotted by many US companies), the company gives employees $7,500 to finance a trip. That’s cash on top of their full salaries. The concept is both generous and innovative by US standards!

There is a caveat, however. The employees have to agree to three rules:

  • No checking works emails, texts, or calls.
  • No working, period.
  • You have to actually go on vacation or you don’t get the money.


According to FullContact, the program has translated into real-life benefits.

For example, FullContact’s communications director Brad McCarty told the Washington Post, “The really big names in tech all focus on the same idea, that employee happiness has to come before everything else. While it’s really difficult to measure that return on investment from a dollar standpoint, it’s not difficult to measure what happens when someone returns from a Paid Paid Vacation: you see, without fail, people shining brighter, working harder and more excited to get back into the swing of things.” There also are other ancillary benefits, as Lorang told the Business Insider.

Of note: because the employee who is going on vacation is literally cut-off from work, it’s essential that other employees are cross-trained or up-to-speed on the vacationee’s projects. This means sharing information and avoiding the ‘hero’ trap – the “I’m the only one that can do this” mentality…

Perhaps best of all, and an inspiration for other small business owners, is that Lorang takes his own advice and has an unplugged vacation at least once a year.

I know that we are all very busy and engaged with our work and our daily lives. And our schedules are always overbooked. But please do take the time to have some fun, unplug, or have an adventure by yourself and/or with your loved ones. You’ll find yourself coming back to work with a smile on your face!

Here’s a shout out and “miss you” to all my nieces and nephews, who seem to be learning this at an early age! Inspiring.J

Tech Tips to Stay Safe While Travelling Abroad

One in five of the 198 million Americans who have plans to take vacations this summer are planning to go abroad, with Europe being the most popular destination.

The attraction is not surprising given the strong US dollar, though uncertainty about the Greece debt crisis and default, and its impact (still an unknown), is a possible damper for some travel plans.

At this juncture, the UK Foreign Office has advised its travellers: “Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services – including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice.”

The Greek situation aside…If you are preparing to travel abroad, here are some tech-related tips on the basics to make sure you have a great, safe time.


Cash or credit cards?

It’s a simple but complex question. Many small proprietors in Europe only take cash. So, you will need to travel with a certain amount of cash.

Starting with currency basics, there are many apps that can show you instant conversion rates, no matter what country you are visiting. And now, ordering currency online can make your life easier. Order Euros online from your bank in advance and get delivery direct to your home or for pick up at your local bank branch in 1-3 business days.

If you need to find an ATM on the fly while abroad, try an app such as as ATM Locator available on the Android platform or iOS.

At the end of the day, most security experts advise against using your debit card for anything beyond cash withdrawals at ATMs. For other transactions, use cash or a credit card.


Using Your Mobile Abroad

Probably chief among the tech challenges for most of us when traveling abroad is using your cell and smartphones. Cell phones and other mobile devices from North America don’t automatically work in Europe. Europe uses the GSM network and much of North America primarily uses the CDMA network. Some US cell phone companies use GSM (T-Mobile, AT&T), but many do not.

To be able to use phones whether they are public phones, landlines or a mobile phone, please confirm the situation with your personal device manufacturer and service provider before you leave for your trip.

Among your options, is to rent a European cell phone. Telestial, for example, offers standard rental package which comes with a SIM with a UK number. That means that if you are calling to other countries, there are calling charges. For lowest calling charges rent the phone and then purchase a local SIM either in advance or when you arrive.

If you can use your own phone, get an international calling and data plan. Roaming charges have improved, but can still add up very quickly. Before you leave, contact your carrier for an international data and calling plans. Also check how to access your Cell phone voicemail when traveling abroad; it may be different than when you are at home.


Turn off the phone when not in use. Turn off 3G (or 4G), cellular data and data roaming when not in use. Another quick fix is turn your phone on “airplane mode.’ Disable automatic downloads and app updates, or restrict this feature to operate only when connected to Wi-Fi. Reset all your usage statistics (so you can keep track of how much you are using your phone, whether it’s texting, voicemail, etc.).

You might also want to pick up a local calling card, as old school and non-high-tech as that seems. J In many cases, these cards offer better rates to cellular networks in foreign countries than are available in the U.S.


“Free” Wi-Fi considerations

Wi-Fi is ubiquitous now and that’s a good thing. But you need to be careful. This is where a lot of data gets stolen. Whether it’s at a café or your hotel, you should ask staff to tell you the name of the network. Many scams simply say “Free Wi-Fi” and people innocently connect with them…

As another simple precaution, avoid disclosing any sensitive information online in a free Wi-Fi hotspot. This would include banking, credit card information, or other personal data.

I highly recommend using AVG’s Wi-Fi Assistant, a free app that allows you to encrypt your data when on the move and helps save battery by shutting off your smartphone’s Wi-Fi when not in use.

Oh, and finally, be sure to leave that selfie stick at home J. (They have been banned at many tourists sites!)

10 Tips to stay safe online this summer vacation

I recently got back from a family holiday in Yellowstone where there was no Internet connection at all. For me it was a blissful digital detox but my son didn’t take so kindly to it. He would jump onto any public network that appeared, regardless of its security, in an attempt to get himself back online where he could game and chat with his friends.

It got me thinking that, from start to finish, there were a lot of things during a summer vacation that could lead to some risky online behavior.

With that in mind, I’ve put together my 10 tips to help you and your family stay safe while booking, travelling and enjoying your vacation.


Summer Travel Tips


Read more

For full details on all the above tips and more, check out my simple fact sheet.