Cybersecurity Tips for a Safer Vacation


The beauty of having different climates around the world is that there is always somewhere we can travel for leisure all year round. These are times when we tend to relax and let our guard down. The reality, though, is that cyber crime knows no vacation. Attackers are relentless and are always on the lookout for the easiest path to their next prey. That makes us, vacationers, an attractive target. Part of good cybersecurity training involves telling your employees how to protect themselves outside of the office.

Attackers are looking to steal your data or money, wreak havoc or use you to get intellectual property from your work. With the rising rates of cyberattacks and the impact having progressed to include loss of life, we all have a part to play in the fight against cyber crime. Ensuring that we always perform our due diligence and not fall victim to preventable attacks is a step in the right direction.  

This article uses the seven stages of an attacker’s kill chain to outline handy tips for securing your trip away from home.   

Cybersecurity Training for Abroad: Let’s Get Packing 

The first part of cybersecurity training for vacation is to know some things before you go. Everything starts with proper preparation. While you plan your itinerary and pack your bags, attackers are also at work. They lurk around performing reconnaissance activities. Their aim is to gather as much information about you as possible. Securing yourself and your data before you leave makes their work harder.

  • Use secure passwords, proper password safety and multi-factor authentication (MFA). According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 61% of breaches are due to improper credential management. This includes using the same passwords across accounts. To protect yourself, use strong unique passwords coupled with MFA. The passwords should safely be stored in a password manager. The use of unique passwords reduces the impact should one of the websites get compromised. Enabling two or more ways of authenticating to the same website further lowers the risk because the attacker will need to know the other factors too to successfully authenticate.  

  • Consider using temporary travel accounts. As an optional measure, it is wise to create a separate throw-away account that you use for anything travel-related. You can then use this throw-away account to register for things related to that trip and later close the account when you get back home. That way, should your account get compromised during your travels, the impact is minimal. Keep in mind that not every website or application requires your real personal information to function.  

  • Prefer credit cards to debit cards. When making online purchases, consider using a credit card instead of a debit card. Unlike debit cards, credit cards provide protection against fraud. If an attacker uses money from your debit card, they are making an immediate withdrawal from your own account. This makes it difficult to trace or get back. With credit cards, they are spending your credit card issuer’s money, which is easier to track and manage in case of fraudulent activities.  

  • Leave your data at home. Consider the number of electronic devices or documents that you carry on your trip. Do you need the extra gadgets? Take only what you need with you and leave the rest at home. This reduces the attack surface and makes it easier for you to keep track of your devices while on the road.  

  • Keep up with software updates. By keeping up with vendor software updates, you close an attack vector, making it harder for the attacker to succeed. Use reputable application stores or sites to download the software. Ensure that all your gadgets are up to date before hitting the road.  

  • Review app permissions. Give applications the least required permissions for the task they are to perform. That way, should attackers gain access via an application, they do not have extra privileges to cause too much havoc.   

  • Disable automatic connections. The auto-connect feature allows your gadgets to connect to nearby devices without intervention. This is not ideal when you are on the road, as the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks are untrusted and insecure. Disable the auto-connect feature to avoid connecting to rogue devices. Turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks off when not in use.  

  • Protect yourself from prying eyes. Get yourself a privacy screen for your phone and computer. This protects you from shoulder surf attacks by a curious onlooker who tries to spy on what you are doing when you are out in public.  

  • Set up and test virtual private network (VPN) connectivity. While on the road, avoid accessing sensitive information over insecure public networks. A VPN builds a secure and private tunnel over untrusted public networks. You can then visit sensitive websites and connect to work or even to your home resources. Test and verify that the VPN network is working and that you have access before traveling. 

Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

What If Something Goes Wrong? 

During the preparation phase also think of your disaster recovery and contingency plan. Remember, you will be on the road and will not have the convenience of your home. Good cybersecurity training should include a checklist of questions to ask. What would happen if you lost your phone or it got stolen and you use it for MFA or password management? Will you still be able to connect to your online accounts? Would you still be able to make payments? Do you have an emergency contact so that you are not stranded in a foreign country?  

  • Back up and test your data. Having backups of your data in accessible places allows you to get back in operational mode should anything happen to your device. This is the best way to reduce the impact of a cyberattack. Most gadgets give you several backup options. You never know when it will come in handy, so back up frequently.  

  • Enable the remote delete option. Find out how to locate or wipe your phone in case of loss or theft. 

  • Make prior arrangements to access funds. To prevent fraud, some banks need you to inform them to enable worldwide payment options when you travel outside your home region. As a result, your card may be automatically declined when used outside your geographic region. This could leave you stranded if you are dependent on that account. There are also some credit card networks, such as American Express, that are not readily accepted in some geographical regions. Make prior arrangements to ensure that you can use the card in those locations or have a backup in case it fails.  

  • Enable card charge notifications. Knowledge is power. You want to know when someone makes an unauthorized payment from your account so that you can act accordingly or report it immediately.   

Off You Go  

You are all packed, ready to hit the road and start your adventure. Remember your cybersecurity training, keep your cyber defenses up and teach your family and friends to do the same. Your defenses are only as strong as your weakest link. Remember that information gathering can happen at any time within your journey. Make secure practices a habit. This ensures that you don’t easily fall for attacker bait or leave breadcrumbs that an attacker can leverage against you.  

  • Make a sweep for hidden cameras. When you first check into your hotel room or rental apartment, be on the lookout for unsolicited cameras. It might be easier to do this at night. A quick way to do this is by turning off the lights and using your phone’s camera to scan the room for sources of infrared light.   

  • Use the safe in the room. Don’t leave your valuable items lying around in the room. Lock them up in a secure safe if you have access to one.   

  • Be watchful when making payments. Request that the terminal be brought to you or walk over to it instead of handing over your card. Should that not be possible, keep the card in sight and pay close attention to the payment process.  

  • Beware of onlookers and shoulder surfers. The only person who should know your PIN or password is you. Keep it that way. When keying in your PIN or password, ensure that the information remains private. You can use your hand as a cover. 

  • Protect your identity. Provide the least required information to achieve the task, nothing more. Don’t be afraid to ask what the information requested will be used for. Is it necessary to provide a scan of your passport or credit card? Do they really need to write down your credit card number, expiry date and security code (CVV number) after making a successful payment? 

  • Protect your digital footprint. Avoid oversharing personal information. This can be your location data, passport details, tickets, vaccination QR codes or anything that can be used against you. Should you choose to share, make sure that private information is scraped. With location-based data, consider sharing after you’ve returned home instead of during your journey. This protects you from being easily located by those with malicious intent. 

How Attackers Get Information

Cautious as you may be, a security incident could still happen. The attackers plan how they can use the information they gathered to strike their target. This is the weaponization phase. You do not have visibility into what is happening during this phase. An attacker could craft a phishing email, create a website that mimics a legitimate one or develop a malicious payload to send to the target. 

Cybersecurity Training for Abroad: Keeping Devices Out of Trouble 

Attackers need means to deliver a malicious payload to the victim. A very common way of doing this is via phishing. This is when the attacker sends a luring email with an attachment or link to the target. There are other means of malware delivery such as a drive-by download or leaving gadgets lying around for the target to pick up. With a drive-by download, the victim gets infected by simply visiting a malicious site during normal web browsing. You can hinder an attack at the delivery phase by practicing cyber awareness. Be careful where you connect your personal devices, which networks and websites you access and what you download.  

  • Avoid using shared electronic devices or untrusted accessories. Shared computers and accessories may already carry malicious software or might be set to log your keystrokes. Avoid connecting your devices to shared computers or cables. If you must use a shared computer during your travels, make use of safe browsing habits. Use an incognito (private) browser, do not log in to sites with private information and do not save or use ‘Remember Me’ options when visiting sites. Ensure that you log out and clear browser history and cookies upon completing your browsing session.  

  • Avoid free public Wi-Fi. Remember that public Wi-Fi is at the end of the day public. Be cautious. Ask for the correct name and connect only to known and secured Wi-Fi networks. Do not access sensitive information over public Wi-Fi. If you must access sensitive data, make sure it is over a secure VPN network.  

  • Keep track of all your electronic devices. Do not leave them unsupervised even while charging.  

  • Stop and think before you click. Analyze links and attachments in emails, social media sites or other sources before accessing them. When in doubt, do not click. Instead, go directly to the trusted company’s webpage. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  

Once malware gets onto the target system, it normally attempts to exploit a vulnerability to install itself. Keeping up with system and software updates hinders successful exploitation. There is a huge ‘but’ here. When you are on the road, you want to hold off on the updates. Do not install updates from just anywhere, as they may be malicious updates. If you really need to, use your phone network instead of the public Wi-Fi network. 

If the exploitation phase is successful, the attacker transitions to the installation phase. Here, a malicious payload backdoor is installed on the device. This is usually accompanied by some form of persistence to give an attacker access to the device for command and control. Once the intruder can control the device, it’s normally game over. The attacker can now move on to the last phase. The end goal may be to steal, destroy or corrupt your data. You may notice successful attacks in these four phases if you carefully and frequently study your device. 

  • Verify installed applications. Make it a habit to frequently check what applications you have on your device and look for oddities.  

  • Go through outgoing communications. Check to see what emails have been sent from your device or your call log. Also, keep tabs on what payments are being made from your card.  

  • Take note of suspicious behaviors. How is your device behaving in general? Is it crashing or is the battery dying quickly? Are you seeing strange activity like the mouse moving automatically? Are there some weird and unexpected network connections to or from your device? Whereas these symptoms do not automatically mean your device is infected, it is wise to investigate the root cause of the issues. 

Should you fall victim to a successful attack, it is not the end of the world. Keep calm and do not panic. This happens even to the best of us, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, act quickly and learn from your experience. 

  • Assess risk. What is at stake? What might have been stolen? Is there something that can be done now? Perform a proper damage assessment and act accordingly.  

  • Report right away. Taking timely action will help reduce the impact. Notify your bank if your card or banking information has been compromised. That way, they can block outgoing transactions in good time. Notify the authorities and those around you in case of identity theft.  

  • Change credentials right away. When in doubt, the right action is always to change your credentials.  

Cybersecurity Training for After Vacation

The holiday has finally come to an end, and it’s time to head back home. But let’s not leave a part of you behind.  

  • Clean up after yourself. You do not want to leave valuable information or data behind only to be found by an attacker. If you had a rental car, make sure to remove any data that you had synced with the car before giving it back. Shred valuable printed material or take it with you instead of simply throwing it in the wastebasket. You don’t want an attacker to go shopping for your information at your expense. 

You made it home, safe and sound. Before you get back to your normal daily routine, put things back in good order.   

  • Disable unnecessary card settings. You no longer need to allow for worldwide payments. Put your card settings back to allow for local payments only. This reduces the attack surface and the risk of fraudulent payments being made from unexpected locations.  

  • Purge unnecessary apps. Make it a habit to review your installed applications and remove what you do not need. If you installed applications for a specific location and do not need them anymore, uninstall them.  

  • Review financial statements. Check your financial statement and review the payments made. If there are any payments that you are not sure about, do not hesitate to contact your bank.  

  • Update your passwords and PINs. Consider the credentials that you used during your travels compromised. Change them. Rotating the bank card is also a valid option if you believe it was compromised.  

  • Update your software and applications. Now that you are home and in a secure network, make sure that your applications and system software are up to date.    

The fight against cyber threats knows no vacation, so cybersecurity training can’t either. It’s an all-year affair that requires you to level up, remain vigilant and stay alert. The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to avoid falling victim or simply make it harder for attackers to succeed. Have fun, but don’t let your guard down. 



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Tips To Travel Safer This Spring Break


Dr. Jim Evans, with Allianz Travel Insurance, fills us in on all the need to know information this spring break season. Whether you’re traveling with family or on your own, Allianz Travel Insurance has answers to questions you might not have thought to ask.

This segment is paid for by Allianz Travel Insurance





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Tips for a safer Easter break camping trip


Over the Easter long weekend, we usually see families and friends going away for a well-deserved break.

With the long weekend approaching, police wish to remind the community of a few important things.

If you are intending to head to the bush to camp, you need to have a plan and permission to camp on private property or a permit for a national park.

Recent research conducted with New South Wales and Queensland farmers identified trespassing, illegal hunting, fishing and camping as the greatest concern for our farmers.

You may have camped in an area previously with permission but you cannot assume that permission still applies.

Availability of campsites may change with stock movements, droughts, floods and other factors coming into effect.

A flooded campsite
Always seek permission to enter property even if you think it is vacant land.

Hunting

If you’re going hunting, please remember you need to seek the permission of the landowner before entering the property boundary.

Do not poach. You are not allowed to hunt from any gazetted road, either with guns, on foot or with dogs.

Wildlife

Taking of any wildlife, including feral animals such as pigs without the permission of the landowner is an offence against the Nature Conservation Act and will incur heavy penalties.

Weapons

All weapons must be stored correctly while travelling.

Visit the weapons licensing page for more information on correct weapon storage in vehicles.

Remember, shut the gate.

Always leave a gate the way you found it if you’re visiting any rural property.

Rural crime

Rural crime affects the lifestyle and financial well-being of those who work and live in our rural communities.

Theft and malicious damage to livestock and equipment costs farmers millions of dollars annually in revenue and loss of productivity.

Campfires

Campfires are a considerable risk to the farmer and campers alike.

Always properly extinguish campfires with water.

If a fire gets away and no one knows you are camping in an area they cannot warn you of the imminent danger.

The same applies for flash flooding from storms or rain upriver.

Always tell someone where you are going

Including a time you should be expected back so they can raise the alarm if you aren’t back on time.

Local warnings

Listen to your radio each morning and evening to hear any possible warnings for your area.

Supplies

Always carry sufficient water and supplies for ALL people travelling in your vehicle and be prepared for two days in case something goes wrong in a remote area.

UHF radios are very helpful both whilst travelling and to communicate with those around you in the bush.

Road safety

Easter is a very busy period on the roads, so remember to take all care whilst driving.

It is best not to drive at night in the outback to protect our wildlife and your vehicle and your family.

There will be a significant police presence on the roads over Easter, including MOCS Rural officers patrolling remote areas and hot spots for trespassing.

Have a great Easter and a safe one and think of the farmers.

You wouldn’t like someone setting up a tent in your backyard without your knowledge or permission and the farmers are entitled to the same respect.



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Scooter safety training allowing Bronx residents to travel safer


Bronx residents are traveling a little safer after attending Lime NYC’s first ride academy scooter safety training on Wednesday.

The electric scooter company, which now has been in the Bronx for six months, allowed participants to sign up for LIME’s equity pricing initiative called Lime Access, which provides major discounts to those that are eligible.

“I’ve been through a lot of emergencies, and a lot of New Yorkers would understand,” one e-scooter rider told News 12. “When we had to power our subways and not running. There’s no way of getting to work from home in emergencies. You’re able to use alternative transportation.”

“Anyone who is receiving any local state or federal assistance, or anyone involved in a program, they will be allowed to use our discount and feature just kind of program lime access,” said Nicole Yearwood, Senior Manager of Lime NYC.

Lime NYC hosted the training to encourage safer riding and responsible parking.



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How to fly safer this holiday season


(CNN) — If you’re taking to the skies to visit friends and family over the holidays, be prepared to jostle your way through crowded airports, packed planes and frenzied baggage queues with millions of fellow travelers.

“Everyone knows how close they’re going to be with other people on a plane,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a union representing flight attendants in the US. “But they may not be taking into account how full those airports will be as well. No space. No way to socially distance.”

The bad news is that many Americans will still not be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving, including children under 12 and those who choose, for whatever reason, not to get a shot.
A good many people may also be “newbies” to the strict federal mask mandate implemented in February, said Nelson, who has been a United Airlines flight attendant since 1996.

“People need to understand that there’s a federal mask policy in place,” she said. “It starts at the airport door and continues throughout the entire process until you leave the airport at your destination.”

Here are eight tips on how to keep you and your family safe — and reduce stress — while flying this holiday season.

Travelers wait in line at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last November. This year, Thanksgiving air travel will be close to pre-pandemic levels.

Travelers wait in line at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last November. This year, Thanksgiving air travel will be close to pre-pandemic levels.

David Ryder/Getty Images

1) Get your child over age 5 vaccinated and get a booster

Children in the US who are ages 5 years and older are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, but like adults, are not fully protected until two weeks after the second dose. Because there has not been enough time between the vaccine’s availability and Thanksgiving for children in this young age group to have received their second shot, none will be fully vaccinated during the Thanksgiving travel period.

Parents and children should continue using masks and social distancing during travel and consider taking a rapid Covid test before gathering with family, Wen said.

If you’re an adult who has not yet gotten your booster shot after being fully vaccinated earlier this year, please do so now, she added.

“We know that immunity to symptomatic infection wanes over time, so I would highly recommend for anyone eligible for a booster to get the shot at least two weeks before getting together with family for the holidays,” Wen said.

2) Fly off-hours and on less busy days

If you can travel to and from your destination on less busy travel days, you and your family will encounter fewer people and may be more successful at social distancing, said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, who is a leading expert in aerosol transmission of viruses.

“That’s especially important if you have children under two who cannot wear a mask,” Marr said. “You can also try to book flights at off hours, later in the evening or very early in the morning, to try and avoid the crowds.”

Because few people have more than a few days off for Thanksgiving, peak travel typically occurs on the day before Thanksgiving, which this year is November 24, and Sunday, November 28. The holiday itself, on November 25 this year, is often less busy.

People check in for their flights at LaGuardia Airport on November 25, 2020.

People check in for their flights at LaGuardia Airport on November 25, 2020.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

3) Book window seats

Experts suggest booking window seats for children (or adults) who are not vaccinated, partly due to the air vents along the inside panels of most planes.

“We think that the seat with the lowest risk is the window seat, as air circulation patterns may be better for the window seat,” Marr said.

“That’s where you’ve got fresh air pumping up, so most of the airflow is happening at a window,” said Nelson.

Another additional benefit: “You don’t have people passing by you in the aisle,” Marr said.

A masked passenger is seen seated on a flight from San Francisco, California to Newark, New Jersey on October 27, 2020.

A masked passenger on a flight from San Francisco, California to Newark, New Jersey in October 2020.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

4) Wear well-fitting, high quality filtration masks

Invest in a high quality mask for travel, one that will trap around 95% of virus-size particles when fitted to the face properly, experts say.

“I certainly would recommend for travelers, including children, to all wear high quality masks — ideally a N95 or KN95 or KF94,” Wen said. “And there are a variety of sizes for these high quality types of masks too, so you can get a good fit.”

Fit is critical, Marr said, as is comfort. Look for a mask that fits each unique face and is comfortable enough that you or your child can wear it for hours, Marr said.

“If when you exhale you feel air leaking up past your eyes or leaking out of the sides, you’ll know it’s not a good fit,” Marr said, adding that its best to shop early “because you’ll have to try a lot of different masks to see what’s going to fit you best.”

Passengers make their way through Los Angeles International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on November 25, 2020.

Passengers make their way through Los Angeles International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on November 25, 2020.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

5) Arrive early

Don’t expect to breeze through the airport. It takes more time to social distance during baggage drop off and security checks — if that’s even possible. And the opening of the US borders to international travelers, while good news for the American economy, may mean even more delays.

“It’s really good news, and only vaccinated people can travel to the US. However, this influx brings travelers with more documents that have to be checked, which may indeed slow things down further,” Nelson said.

“Plan to come an extra hour earlier than you normally would, to give yourself plenty of time so that you’re not feeling the stress of not getting through the process and being to your flight on time.”

Families reunited at Dulles International Airport on November 8, 2021, when the US reopened to vaccinated international travelers.

Families reunited at Dulles International Airport on November 8, 2021, when the US reopened to vaccinated international travelers.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/AFP via Getty Images

6) Be prepared for security

Savvy travelers know how to minimize the time they spend in security. That includes having no loose change, no belts and no shoes with ties. Seasoned travelers take off watches and store overcoats or jackets in advance — and have their laptop and carry-on toiletries ready to pull out and place into the bins.

But even experienced travelers seem to have forgotten how to fly over this long, dry travel spell, Nelson said: “I see people who used to be frequent travelers, now coming back for the first time in a long time and every single person’s bag was getting put off to the side because they had something in it that was a prohibited item, like a water bottle.

“It’s like everyone just forgot how to travel! So that creates even more chaos,” she said.

Each airline has links to a list of prohibited items on their website, Nelson added, “and it’s a good idea to review those before you pack.”

7) Delay your meal

Because federal guidelines require masks to be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking “for brief periods,” Nelson recommends replacing the mask whenever you pause eating.

“If you’re actively eating, taking bite after bite, we’re not going to say that you have to lower and raise your mask every single time,” Nelson said. “But if you are taking a bite of a sandwich, putting it down, looking at your phone, are taking a moment, then the idea is that you raise your mask while you’re chewing until you’re ready to take the next bite.”

You can also protect yourself by eating when everyone else is masked, Marr suggested.

“When they come around and serve drinks and snacks, I’ll take it but I don’t eat them right away because that’s when everyone else has their masks off,” she said. “I wait to eat until people are done with their meals and have put their masks back on.”

8) Stay in your seat if you can

Getting up and moving around puts you closer to others on the plane, who may or may not be vaccinated or following mask guidance. While the risk of Covid-19 from such exposures may be small, there are other concerns.

The airline industry has seen an explosion of unruly passenger incidents in 2021, including a recent case in which a female flight attendant was punched in the nose. While not all of those altercations have been due to masks, a good number have been, Nelson said.

“It may not just be Covid that is a risk,” Nelson said. “It could be an outright brawl, and you could get smacked by someone who’s flailing about.”

Flight attendants suggest remaining in your seat if such an incident occurs.

“We are trained in deescalation, and also in how to direct other people to help,” she said. “So unless there’s an immediate threat of people getting hurt, we really advise passengers not to take action on their own because they may inadvertently make the situation worse.”

Top image: Travelers pass through security screening at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 29, 2020. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)



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Maui’s ‘Safer Outside’ Program Is Now In Effect. Here’s What You Need To Know.


Following the implementation of the “Safe Access Oahu” program earlier this week, Maui County launched its own set of new rules that go into effect Wednesday, September 15th.

Designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant, the order puts restrictions on dining and gatherings.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Proof of vaccine or negative COVID-19 test will be required to eat indoors, but not outdoors.

Establishments on Maui will require proof of vaccination or negative test to eat inside restaurants or bars. However, unvaccinated folks will be allowed to dine outside with no restrictions. The rules apply to everyone 12 and older.

Gatherings are limited to groups of five people indoors and groups of 10 outdoors. Restaurant capacity will be 50%.

This means that there won’t be any outdoor festivals, and commercial boating operations will also have to adapt. Wait times at restaurants will likely be longer due to the reduced capacity limits.

The new rules will be in effect for 30 days.

After the 30 days, the rules will be reevaluated and addressed as it relates to the current COVID-19 situation. This means the current end date is October 15th.

The rules apply to all of Maui County, not just Maui.

Note that Maui County includes not just the entire island of Maui, but the islands of Lanai and Molokai as well.

The new rules are controversial with residents.

According to Hawaii News Now, some restaurant owners feel the new restrictions are an overreach of government and that the rules are not applied fairly to all businesses. On the flip side, the government maintains the rules are necessary for public health and to keep businesses open.



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Is it safer to travel by car or plane during the COVID pandemic?


9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said it’s all about how much contact you have with other people.

DENVER — This Next question comes from a viewer named Peter who asked:

“The CDC has now said that fully-vaccinated people can travel safely … this is reported widely, but in the discussion, only air travel is mentioned. My question is, what is the relative difference in safety between air trip and a road trip?” 

We passed this question along to 9Health Medical Expert Dr. Payal Kohli, who said that it all comes down to the number of people you’ll be around (a refrain you’ve probably heard before during the pandemic).

“When deciding the risk between air and road travel, you want to ask yourself the question: which will expose you to more people?” Kohli said. “And you have to go with the option that isn’t going to expose you to as many.”

RELATED: Airport crowds, airline ticket sales show travel recovering

RELATED: AAA study finds more Coloradans are willing to travel during pandemic

OK but really … car or plane?

“I think a road trip would be safer, even if you stop overnight because the number of people you come into contact with is by definition far less than a crowded place like an airport,” she said.

With that being said, Kohli conceded that air travel is getting safer. Roughly one in five Coloradans are partially vaccinated, and a third have at least some protection from one dose.

“And, as you know, there’s a lot of safety measures on planes to make sure the actual time you’re on the plane is safe as well,” she said.

SUGGESTED VIDEOFull Episodes of Next with Kyle Clark




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How to Have Pleasurable Safer Sex During COVID-19: 14 Tips


After 12+ months of mumbling “I’m my safest sex partner!” while rubbing one out, you’re probably wondering when you can start having in-person partnered or multi-partnered sex again.

The answer: potentially sooner than you think!

Scroll on to learn more about safer romping in the age of ‘rona.

Before we talk about how to have safer sex during the coronavirus pandemic, we need to talk about what safer sex is.

Typically, safer sex is defined as sex — that’s any meaningful experience of pleasure — that helps reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Common ways of reducing the risk of STI transmission include:

  • using an external condom, internal condom, dental dam, or other barrier method
  • getting regularly tested for STIs
  • exchanging your STI status with your partner(s)
  • taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) if you’re at risk of contracting HIV

The reason it’s known as safer (with the r), and not safe sex, is because no transmission inhibitor is 100 percent effective.

External condoms, for example, aren’t foolproof. Some data shows that, when taking human error into consideration, they’re only 85 percent effective.

Even being screened for STIs isn’t 100 percent effective. This isn’t because the tests are inaccurate — they are accurate — but because most doctors don’t screen for all STIs or don’t screen for all STIs in all possible infection locations.

Many doctors, for example, won’t test for the herpes simplex virus unless you’re currently experiencing an outbreak. In fact, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually recommends against it.

Similarly, most doctors don’t ask people if they’ve engaged in oral or anal sex, and they may fail to test for oral or anal STIs.

Gone are the days when safer sex spoke only to the risk of STI transmission.

In the midst of a global pandemic centered around a virus that can be spread through a variety of bodily fluids — respiratory droplets, mucus, semen, fecal matter, and blood — the definition of safer sex has expanded.

These days, safer sex is defined as sex where those involved proactively work to reduce the risk of potential STI and COVID-19 transmission.

Here are some additional precautions to take during the pandemic to reduce your risk of COVID-19 transmission:

  • Get regularly tested for COVID-19.
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine, and continue to physically distance until you’re considered fully vaccinated.
  • Wear a mask (or two).
  • Stay 6 (or more) feet apart from those outside of your household or pod.
  • Disinfect surfaces that are going to be shared by multiple people.
  • Wash your hands before and after sexual activity.
  • Disinfect any shared sex toys after use.
  • Avoid sexual activities that have a higher risk of infection.

To be very clear: Although STIs and COVID-19 can both be spread during sex, COVID-19 is not classified as an STI.

This means that, even if you get screened for every single STI, you aren’t also getting screened for COVID-19.

The only way to know if you’ve contracted COVID-19 is to take a COVID-19 test.

Part one of safer sex during the COVID-19 pandemic is understanding how the two types of infections work.

How COVID-19 is transmitted

COVID-19 is primarily spread upon contact with respiratory droplets — like sneeze shmutz, cough gook, and spit — from a person with COVID-19 coughing, sneezing, or talking near you.

COVID-19 can also be spread through airborne transmission.

Learn more about how COVID-19 is transmitted by visiting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC websites.

How STIs are transmitted

STIs are primarily transmitted through bodily fluids or direct genital skin-to-skin contact.

Learn more about STI transmission below:

Do you know your current STI or COVID-19 status? Find out before boning.

Find out your COVID-19 status

The only way to know your COVID-19 status is to get tested, eliminate as many potential risks for transmission between the test and results, and receive your results.

Throughout the pandemic, recommendations around whether people who aren’t experiencing symptoms should get tested have varied.

To find if you qualify for a test, and where you can get tested:

  • Google search “COVID-19 testing near me.”
  • Call your local clinic, doctor, or other healthcare professional.
  • Ask your local urgent care, CVS, or Walgreens if they’re currently performing COVID-19 tests.

To learn more about COVID-19 testing, check out the FDA’s Coronavirus Disease Testing Basics or read the below Healthline articles:

Find out your STI status

Knowing your true STI status means getting tested for all STIs.

“Prior to any sexual encounter, it’s recommended that all partners be screened for HIV, hepatitis B, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes,” says Kecia Gaither, MD, a double board certified physician in OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine and the director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln.

It also means getting screened in all potential areas at risk of being infected. In other words, get tested for oral or anal STIs if you have oral or anal sex.

If you aren’t sure where to go, check out our roundup of STI testing locations available in each state and online.

Your STI status isn’t the only one you need to know before you have partnered or multi-partnered sex.

You also need to know the status of the people you’re bedding.

To introduce the STI conversation, share your status first, recommends Lisa Finn, a sex educator and sexpert with sex toy boutique Babeland.

“Sharing your status and testing protocols will make other people feel more comfortable sharing their status,” she says.

You might say:

  • “Before you come over, I’d love to talk about our STI status. I’ll start: I got tested for gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis 2 weeks ago and received negative results for everything. HBU?”
  • “Before we meet up, I want to find out my current STI status. I’m going to make an appointment at my local Planned Parenthood or walk-in clinic this week. When were you last tested? Would you be open to doing the same?”
  • “I’m really excited to see you. I want you to know that I’m herpes positive, I’m on antiretrovirals, and I haven’t had an outbreak in 6 months. Let me know if you have any questions.”

Before agreeing to meet up with someone, Gaither says, “You want to find out when their last negative (or positive) COVID-19 test was, if they’re fully vaccinated, if and when they’re planning to get vaccinated, what their safety protocols are, and if they’ve had any recent exposures.”

Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach and the author of “All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life,” notes that you might also ask how many people they’re currently dating.

“This is a very serious virus, and it deserves to be treated with seriousness,” she says.

“It’s not unchill to ask someone to help you assess whether they’re going to give you a potentially life threatening infection.” Fair!

Having different COVID-19 protocols may be a dealbreaker, and that’s OK!

“It may be a red flag if someone follows different COVID-19 protocols than you and refuses to adjust to the precautions you’ve requested in order to feel safe,” Engle says.

“It certainly indicates that this person isn’t being safe with their own health, which puts you at even greater risk.”

Ultimately, if you each aren’t fully vaccinated, having in-person sex in the middle of the pandemic with someone outside your household is risky.

But, according to the NYC Health Department, certain acts are safer than others.

According to the NYC Health Department, the safest sex acts during the pandemic include:

  • mutual masturbation
  • glory hole sex
  • masked sex
  • oral sex with a dental dam or external condom
  • anal sex with an external condom or other barrier method

Swapping spit is on the riskier side. Rimming is considered risky, too.

That doesn’t mean you can only do the acts the NYC Health Department approves of.

It just means you should approach other acts with an understanding of the risks.

Over a year into the pandemic, you’re probably a little sick (pun intended) of reading articles that sing the praises of sexting, phone sex, and video banging.

But, as Engle says, “Virtual sex really can be fun and intimate!”

App-controlled sex toys, mood lighting, good WiFi connections, and unlimited messaging can all help.

“We’ll all be vaccinated soon, and life can go back to normal in the near future,” she says. “Right now, [you] need to play it safe, even if you’d prefer to have sex in person.”

It is possible to have in-person (!) partnered and multi-partnered sex in the middle of the pandemic.

It just requires a lot of communication ahead of time about certain things, like COVID-19 protocols, current STI status, boundaries, and more.


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.





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