Staying cyber safe over Memorial Day weekend

  • Published
  • By Andrew G. Cosner, AFDW/A6 Cybersecurity Lead
  • Air Force District of Washington

Officially, Memorial Day in the United States is the day we set aside to remember and honor those members of the Armed Forces who have fallen in battle defending our liberty. Unofficially, though, many people see this weekend as the start of the summer travel season, and will be hitting the beach to kick off their seasonal intake of vitamin D. For those in the latter group, be aware that criminals take advantage of this well-deserved time away to increase their activity. Here are just a couple of things you can do to make sure that you spend Memorial Day celebrating or reflecting in the manner you choose, and not filling out police reports.

1. Never announce in advance that you’ll be away from home. Yes, it’s a good idea to tell family and friends where you’ll be going and how long you’ll be, but try to limit that disclosure to just a couple of trusted people. There’s nothing a criminal loves more than the absolute knowledge that a home is going to be empty for a specific amount of time and over a specific date range.

2. In the same vein, don’t post pictures of your vacation while you’re still there. Wait till you get home to show off those mouth-watering meals and envy-inducing views. Otherwise, you’re simply advertising the fact that your home is unattended and you’ll be hard to reach. In fact, thieves have been known to use this information to contact your family and friends posing as you, to solicit emergency funds in your name.

3. Be wary of free wi-fi spots while traveling. While some restaurants and airports are known for offering free wi-fi to the huddled masses, such entry points are rarely if ever secured properly. In the interest of offering convenience, they sacrifice the ability to keep your information safe. In fact, the only thing you should ever do over a public wi-fi hub is activate a secure Virtual Private Network, and even then you should assume that everyone around you can easily read every word you type.

4. Remember that skepticism is healthy! Any deal that seems too good to be true likely is. Most likely, you haven’t won the lottery or been selected by a stranger to receive millions of dollars. If you receive a notification that someone you know needs money sent to them, insist on calling them directly and have them ask you for it over the phone. And trust me, the IRS does not accept payment in the form of gift cards. Anyone asking you for them is scamming you.

The world is not an inherently evil place. The vast majority of people you meet are likely to be kind, honest, and ready to help their fellow man in times of need. That being said, there are bad actors out there who will try anything they can to turn your goods into theirs. Whether you choose to spend Memorial Day partying or in somber reflection, a few precautions is all it takes to ensure that the day stay memorable.

Public Affairs (817) 782-5000