<p></p> <p>Here we are smack in the middle of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Sand, sun and cybercrime.</p> <p>That's right. Just because you decide to take a week or two off and travel to some exotic location, or perhaps only to a neighboring state to visit relatives, criminals never take vacations.</p> <p>That's because they know that even though you're supposed to be relaxing by the pool, sipping on a margarita, you probably still have your laptop, iPad, smartphone, MP3 player or other portable electronic device with you.</p> <p>And that means <a alt="((CONLINK|2585|thieves%20can%20steal%20your%20devices))" href="">thieves can steal your devices</a> , as well as your data, if you don't take some precautions.</p> <p>Here are five tips from Andrew Brandt, a researcher at the Colorado security firm Webroot Software Inc. Click "next" above to proceed.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Turn off your Wi-Fi</strong>

<p> or at least watch where you use it. Don't use those free Wi-Fi access points in airports, hotel lobbies, cybercafes or anywhere else for that matter.</p> <p>Unsecured wireless connections, such as the password-free connections businesses provide as a service, can <a alt="((CONLINK|6791|allow%20the%20bad%20guys%20to%20gain%20access))" href="">allow the bad guys to gain access</a> to your devices and steal your personal information.</p> <p>If you do have to use a free wireless connection, Brandt suggests first turning off any applications that automatically connect to the Internet, such as an email client, Web browser or file-sharing tools.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Set up automatic bill payments.</strong>

<p> If you're traveling and you do need to use a password-free wireless hotspot (see the previous tip) to pay your bills online and especially if you log on in a public place then anyone else using the same hotspot <a alt="((CONLINK|6314|can%20intercept%20the%20data))" href="">can intercept the data</a> that goes between your computer and the wireless router.</p> <p>"When you're connecting over a wireless network, don't do things that you don't necessarily trust," Brandt said.</p> <p>If your bank, utility company or credit-card provider offers free automatic bill-payment services, use them. If not, you can always pay your bills before you leave home.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Back up your devices before you take them with you.</strong>

<p> Don't wait until you're on a plane to realize you've left your iPad in the hotel lobby.</p> <p>"I back up all my email, all my photographs, anything personal that's on my computer," Brandt said. "I'll leave that backup at home in a safe, just in case I leave my phone in a cab or my laptop on the seat in an airport and it disappears. [Then] at least that data's not completely gone."</p> <p></p>

<strong>Don't advertise your travel plans on Facebook or Twitter. </strong>

<p>The whole world doesn't need to know that <a alt="((CONLINK|6883|your%20house%20will%20be%20unoccupied))" href="">your house will be unoccupied</a> until next month.</p> <p>"If you're not going to put a note on your front door that says, 'I'm out of town for the next two weeks,' then don't do it on Facebook, either," Brandt said.</p> <p>Burglars have been using social media sites to find empty houses to rob, he said.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Never let your devices out of your sight. </strong>

<p>Keep your devices with you at all times or lock them in a room safe. If there's no safe in your room, put them in the hotel's safe.</p> <p>Brandt warned that sometimes crooks look to steal a device to make a fast buck. For example, he told the story of some businesspeople who regularly traveled to China. When they went out, they locked their laptops to the desks in their hotel rooms with cables.</p> <p>However, they later discovered that <a alt="((CONLINK|6437|while%20they%20were%20out%20of%20the%20room))" href="">while they were out of the room</a> , someone tried to install malicious software on their computers to steal their passwords.</p> <p>The moral to that story is "don't leave it behind." If you keep your devices with you, no one else will be able to get at them.</p> <p>If you pay attention to these tips, you'll be more likely to keep your devices and your data safe and secure while you're on vacation.</p>

5 Ways to Keep Your Gadgets Safe During Summer Travel