There is nothing like the rush one feels when travelling overseas to experience a new culture. While most travel books will give you tips on how to safe and avoid scams during your travels, not much is ever said about protecting your digital life while on the road.
We live our lives more and more online. Our cell phones and computers have access to some of our most important information including our bank accounts, contact information, personal photos, and much more. We’ll be talking about how to secure your devices and keep your digital life secure while you travel.
Mobile Phone Security
Password Protect and Encrypt Your Phone
One of the best things you can do to protect you phone is to make sure it is encrypted and locked with a strong and secure passcode. That way if you lose or someone steals your phone they won’t be able to get into it. This tip is not just for phones, but your tablet and other mobile devices as well.
Most modern smart phones are encrypted by default once you set your password. If you have an older phone you may have to look for encryption in the phone’s settings menu.
Back Up Your Photos
If you are using your phone to take pictures on your trip, make sure you are backing up your photos to the cloud. That way if you lose your phone, your memories aren’t lost or stolen as well.
Find My Phone
You may want to consider turning on the Find My Phone capability, both Apple and Android have this option. It may not be able to help you in all circumstances, but having the potential to be able to track your phone down is a good thing. Plus, if you think there is no hope in getting your phone back, you can remotely wipe the data on your phone preventing anyone from getting access (provided you have your phone password protected).
If you own an Android phone, check out some more privacy and security tips for Android to really lock things down.
If you don’t need your laptop it is best to leave it at home and avoid lugging around a few extra pounds. But for those of us who need to bring our laptops along for the ride, there are some things we can do to make sure they are secure while travelling.
Protect Your Computer With A Password
Just like with your mobile devices, you’ll want to secure your laptop with a secure password. You’ll need it every time you boot up your computer. This will prevent the average person from getting access to your laptop, but alone it won’t stop skilled criminal from breaking in. For that you need encryption.
Encrypt Your Laptop
While this is the most secure way to protect the data on your laptop, it is not without its’s drawbacks. The most important is that if you lose or forget your password there is usually no way to get it back and you are going to lose all your data.
If you are on a Mac they have a built in application called FileVault that lets you easily encrypt your drive. On Windows 10 it can be a little more complicated. Encryption is enabled by default, provided you have a laptop that supports it and you sign into you pc with a Microsoft account. For privacy advocates this is a no-no. As they upload a copy of your encryption key to Microsoft and signing in enables some features that send data back to Redmond. But if you just need to protect against thieves and other malcontents, this will do the job.
If you’re more tech savvy you can use an open source software like VeraCrypt. Or you can pay to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro which gives you access to Bitlocker within windows.
For more information and to learn how to secure Windows 10 view these security and privacy tips for Windows 10.
Backup Your Laptop
Just like your mobile devices, backing up your computer is a must, whether or not you are travelling. Both mac and windows have an easy to use built in backup program if you want to backup to a local hardrive. Though if you choose this method your external hard drive should be encrypted and password protected too.
Another good option for travelers is to use a cloud backup service like those from Google, Backblaze, or one of the other online backup services. If you lose or have your laptop stolen at least your important files will not be lost forever.
Watch Out For Wifi
We live in a wifi world and it is one of the best ways to stay connected while you travel to the far flung reaches of the globe. But you need to be mindful of using public wifi as they can be a great place for hackers to steal your information and gain access to some of your online accounts.
Wifi At Airports & Other Public Places
It’s is tempting to login to wifi at the airport or the coffee shop, especially if you don’t have a data connection on your cell phone. Hackers know this too. Your best option is to use a VPN, which we’ll talk a little more about below. But if that isn’t an option for you, here are a couple tips.
Make sure that the sights you are going to are encrypted with SSL. If your website URL starts with https: and there is a small lock in your browsers location bar, then your connection to that site is encrypted.
One of the best pieces of software that you can have to protect your privacy and online security while travelling is a vpn. They turn your unsecure connection into an encrypted one by connecting to the VPN companies servers.
If you connect to your VPN first, then all the traffic you send over the connection will be protected from snoops and nearby hackers trying to steal your login information, credit card details, and other sensitive information.
A Warning On VPNs
Don’t use a free VPN service. While some are completely legit, many have been found to be privacy nightmares, monitoring and stealing your data. It is worth it to buy a subscription from a reputable VPN company. The cost is minimal, between 4 – 10 dollars a month and many allow you to buy just a month’s subscription. Though having a VPN is something you’ll benefit from even while you are back home and is worth the year subscription and you’ll get a lower price.
About The Author
Peter is the founder of Tin Hat Labs, a website dedicated to helping people secure their online lives and protect their privacy.