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Traveling for Thanksgiving? Security tips for mobile devices

Mobile security can be at risk during holiday travel (Courtesy Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Hitting the road for a Thanksgiving feast with extended family takes travelers away from the comforts of home, and the relative safety of their home wireless networks.

And crooks know it.

“Any public WiFi, you’re susceptible to others that are leveraging that particular WiFi,” says Francis Knott, senior vice president of KoolSpan, a company that makes hardware-based encryption and security applications to protect data and voice communications.

Laptops, phones and tablets can be exploited, says Knott.

While most home networks require a password to connect, that’s usually not the case in locations travelers pass through.

“Cafes, airports, any place with public WiFi, you’re at significant risk,” says Knott.

Emails and texts can be viewed and duplicated, and phone conversations can be listened to, according to Knott.

Knott suggests making sure software on devices is up to date before starting a trip, since most updates include patches to deal with security vulnerabilities.

To reduce the risk, Knott says travelers should turn off WiFi when not using it, to avoid mobile devices from automatically connecting to open networks.

While some smartphone users download shopping apps which allow business to track their actions in return for special offers and bargains, Knott says shoppers who prefer to not be electronically tailed should turn WiFi settings to Off.

The privacy dangers don’t only exist in shopping malls and other businesses, says Knott.

Air passengers taking advantage of new rules allowing phone and WiFi use on planes open their information to others – including hackers – using the network.

Knott says KoolSpan’s TrustChip, which is designed around the industry-standard plug-in microSD chip, encrypts data, voice calls, and messages.

“Text messaging is an area we’re seeing a lot of attention in, (with companies) adding extra measures in financial services, healthcare, aerosmith, high tech. They’re all locking down their text messaging,” says Knott.

With heightened interest in security, in the wake of revelations of National Security Agency surveillance programs, Knott says KoolSpan is developing a more consumer-friendly software security solution.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPtech on Twitter.


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