A Defensive Computing Checklist
by Michael Horowitz
- May 1, 2023: Hotel Booking Is a Post-truth Nightmare by Jacob Stern for The Atlantic. The point here is that hotel taxes, amenity fees, and/or resort fees are not factored into published hotel room rates, making true comparison impossible. The article also says that certain booking sites do show the "all-in price in small print beneath the nightly price". Expedia does this, Booking.com does not.
- February 8, 2023: Mysterious leak of Booking.com reservation data is being used to scam customers by Dan Goodin for Ars Technica. "For almost five years, Booking.com customers have been on the receiving end of a continuous series of scams that clearly demonstrate that criminals have obtained travel plans and other personal information customers provided to the travel site ... It's hard to understand how, after five years, the leak in Booking.com’s partner network continues to spill private data that leaves customers open to scams and other forms of fraud. The company’s insistence that its systems haven’t been breached is little comfort to those affected ... Until Booking.com comes clean, people would do well to book travel using a different site."
- This New York Times article (Aug 2022) says to book directly with the airline/hotel and avoid third party apps and websites. The reason: if something goes wrong, dealing with a middleman just complicates things.
- Google Flights can email you when the air fare for a planned trip goes down. Give it your travel dates and destinations and turn on the option to track prices.
- The SeatGuru website has more detail on airplane seating than the simple diagram that airlines provide. Tell it your flight number and see not only a detailed seating chart, but also tidbits like the seats with extra legroom and those with limited recline or overhead storage.
- If driving, download an off-line map using Google Maps for the areas where you will be.
- If flying, install the app for every airline you plan on using. Also download an off-line Google Map for the area around the airports where you will be.
- In case the trip does not go as planned, install apps for hotel chains, car rental services and trains in the area. Don't just install the apps, it is best to also set up accounts with these companies.
- Take proof of COVID-19 vaccination, both on paper and electronically
Flying soon? Flighty is a must-have iOS app for air travel
From A 5-Step Checklist for Handling Air Travel Woes on the Go by J. D. Biersdorfer
(Aug. 2022). Third-party flight-tracker apps work across multiple airlines and can provide information not found in an airline app, such as data on other flights, airport delays and weather.
by Jason Cipriani for ZDNet. Jan. 2, 2023
Quoting: "If you're flying anytime soon and have an iPhone, Flighty's near real-time alerts, which give an abundance of information and live activities support, make it a must-have." A family subscription is $90/year. The first trip in the app is free. A few hours before your scheduled flight, there is an alert letting you know the plane you're going to fly on is on its way to the airport and whether it's on time or not. You can see where your plane is 25 hours before your scheduled flight. Once your incoming plane lands, you'll get an alert. And then another when it arrives at the gate.
- Put a Tile or Apple AirTag in checked luggage. For example: Ontario couple told their luggage was lost and donated to charity, but they knew where it was the whole time by CBC News (Jan 24, 2023). The airline, Air Canada, completely lost track of a piece of luggage. They thought it was unclaimed and were about to give it to charity. The AirTag however, showed the owners that their luggage sat in Montreal for 4 weeks (they had changed planes in Montreal), then moved to suburban Toronto where it sat for three months. Eventually, they drove to the storage facility in Toronto and asked the police to get their luggage back for them.
- Delta and some other Air Lines use radio-frequency identification tags on checked bags. In their app, look for the "Track My Bags" button.
- Put your name and address and contact information inside each piece of checked luggage.
- Both Google Maps and Apple Maps may have maps on airport terminals.
- The QR code on your phone or paper boarding pass contains lots of personal information. Keep it hidden as best you can. Destroy paper boarding passes after the flight.
- Maybe don't fly on Southwest.
Not only did the airline melt down at the end of 2022, there is also this story about how their email alert system was buggy back in 2017 causing the author to miss his flight. How I learned the hard way about Southwest Airlines' awful technology by Chris Matyszczyk for ZDNet. January 1, 2023.
- Maybe don't fly on any plane made by Boeing.
Pluralistic: Here are just two of the corporate giveaways hidden in the rushed, must-pass, end-of-year budget bill by Corey Doctorow. December 22, 2022. Quoting:
"Remember when Boeing (the monopoly US airplane manufacturer that squandered $43b on stock buybacks and had to borrow $14b from the US public to survive the pandemic) told the FAA that it could self-certify its 737 Max airplanes, and then killed hundreds and hundreds of people with its defective planes? The 737 Max was unsafe for many reasons, but one glaring factor was the fact that Boeing sold some of its core safety as "extras" ... leading to multiple crashes in which all lives were lost. Boeing was forced to take the 737 Max out of service, but it eventually brought the plane back, 'fixing' the problems by renaming the "737 Max" to the "737 8".
Supposedly, Boeing has been diligently working on fixing the problems with its defective jets that can't be addressed by a rebranding campaign. This was not voluntary: the 2020 Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act required Boeing - and every other manufacturer whose aircraft were certified by the FAA - to meet new minimum safety standards by December 27, 2022. Every manufacturer met that deadline, except Boeing, and someone amended the budget bill to give the company three more years to meet these security standards. Critically, the new security measures, when they come, will be certified by an FAA that Republicans will control, thanks to the House changing hands. Boeing is slated to ship 1,000 new 737 Maxes ...".
If you are staying in a Hotel that has an app, you may be able to check in via the app. If so, the sooner you do, the sooner your room will be ready. If you fail to check in, then show up late, the hotel may give away your reservation.
How to prevent customs agents from copying your phone's content by Tatum Hunter for the Washington Post. September 2022. American citizens can refuse to unlock their devices for CBP agents and still enter the country. However, CBP may keep your devices for months. Noncitizens can be denied entry if they do not unlock their devices. Power down devices before going through customs. Use a separate phone or laptop for traveling, one that does not have sensitive data on it. The article does not mention TrueCrypt or VeraCrypt. It is, after all, written by a reporter, not a techie.
See also the Airbnb topic.
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