Stay unplugged while on vacation, cyber security expert says

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Vacation. It’s a perfect time for getting away but it’s also a perfect time for criminals to find ways to hack your computer and steal your data.

You’ve packed your bag, turned off the lights, stopped your newspaper delivery and secured your home – but have you secured your computer?

“The attacks never stop,” said Rob Downs, CEO of Managed IT Solutions in Raleigh said of cyber attacks.

Downs showed CBS North Carolina a map of real-time attacks to emphasize that when you’re on vacation, your electronic devices are more open to being compromised.

When you are away, he offers this advice: “If you don’t need to access anything at home don’t do it. Stay unplugged on vacation.”

One of the reasons for that is because public wifi and other internet portals may not be what they seem.

“Public wifi is a bad idea because people are not aware what they are connecting to,” explained Downs. “You think it’s public wifi, but it could be a guy sitting in a corner emulating the wifi at your location just watching what you doing.”

Experts like Downs recommend you have current anti-virus programs for your computer as well your mobile devices before you travel.

A recent study by McAfee Cyber Security says only 43 percent of people who went on vacation actually unplugged from their devices for the entire vacation.

Most people want to stay connected.

And Downs says a limited amount of that connection time on vacation may be warranted.

For example, to help cut down on the “are we there questions,” there are times you may need to stay plugged in – especially if you have kids.

“The trip down and back can be long for children and you need to keep them occupied so you’re going to end up taking your devices,” Downs says.

But, you also need to make time for yourself.

Just ask Downs who admits he regularly goes on vacation with four devices.

“I can tell you a couple of times in the past few years that I unplugged it’s been cleansing. It’s like a yoga class. I feel nice and relaxed because you’re not stressed about what’s going on,” Downs admitted.

He says you should also plan some activities on vacation that are so interesting no one will want to use their devices during those times.

And remember don’t post anything online about your vacation until you get back so thieves won’t know your house is empty.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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