Journey to security: Data safety for travelers

January 17, 2020  |  Dean Chester

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Image source: Pixabay

Note:This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

In today’s world, we enjoy incredible mobility that our ancestors could only dream of. In a matter of hours or, at most, days, we can go from one continent to another.

At the same time, our lives depend on the security of all sorts of our private data: from our credit card information to our browsing habits. But if at our homes we can be sure that we have taken sufficient security measures and protected our systems, things get muddier when we travel.

There is no way to tell if cybersecurity employed by an airport or hotel you use is enough to protect your sensitive data. However, there are ways to increase your safety by following several simple tips.

1.       Don’t trust public USB charging stations

While their convenience is hard to overestimate when your battery charge is running low, public USB charging stations should not be treated as safe.

The threat when the data on your device is stolen or infected through a USB cord when you connect the device to a charging station is called juice jacking. It may not be the most widespread type of malware injection but it is better to avoid any possibility of it nevertheless.

This threat can be mitigated by getting a USB data blocker that allows charging your device while blocking any data transfer to or from it. Alternatively, just charge your device at a socket.

2.       Mind your physical security

It’s not every time when personal information gets stolen that some complex hacking techniques are involved. Quite often, stealing access to sensitive data only requires a more traditional set of criminal skills.

If you travel to a highly-populated city and especially if you use public transportation there, your chances of running into pickpocketers are going to be very high. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take some preemptive measures to battle this possibility.

If your device is small (like a smartphone), try to keep it in an inside pocket, if possible. This way, you will make it almost unreachable to any thief.

On the other hand, if your device is bigger (like a laptop) and you carry it around in a bag, be sure not to put the bag down in any circumstances. Hold it tightly so that no criminal can snatch it from your hands.

3.       Be prepared in case your device is stolen

Sadly, no matter what precautions you take, there’s still a possibility that your device may be stolen. It only takes a criminal one lucky attempt to do so while you have to succeed in protecting yourself constantly.

This is why you need to have a plan B.

Set up a screen locker for your smartphone. Ideally, it should be done with a password because those are the hardest to crack but it comes at a price of having to enter it every time you need to access your smartphone. However, in the unfortunate event if your device does get stolen, the perpetrators won’t be able to access it and your personal information.

Another option is setting up a biometric authentication procedure to unlock your phone. In most cases, using your fingerprint is the most convenient route to take.

Similarly, your other devices should also be protected with a password.

4.       Add steps to your authentication

Another way you should protect your sensitive data while travelling is by setting up multi-factor authentication. Nowadays, more and more services allow doing this and if, for example, you have a choice between two similar email providers one of which offers MFA and the other does not, you should pick the first one.

MFA’s additional protection means that to get access to your account, a bad actor will have to not simply find out what your password is but also obtain your security token somehow, which makes their job harder and less worthwhile.

5.       Be at guard around public Wi-Fi

Whether you are traveling for pleasure or business, at some point, you are likely to stay at a hotel or eat at a café that offers free Wi-Fi Internet access. It’s very easy to see the benefits of it for both the enterprise and its customers: the former gets more clients thanks to the positive word-of-mouth and the latter can enjoy surfing the Internet with ease.

This “with ease”, however, is a part of a security concern: by taking this easy option, you risk endangering your sensitive data. The safety of public hotspots can be compromised in many ways.

6.       Update your software before you go

This piece of advice is a good one to follow even if you do not travel much. If you do, though, in the more dangerous environment of constantly changing networks, it is especially valid.

Antivirus or an operating system, if it’s not up-to-date, then it’s up to no good. Updates are released for a reason, and that reason is fixing and patching problems which include security vulnerabilities. And when going off on a journey, you want your device to have as few vulnerabilities as possible.

7.       Be careful about what you post when in oppressive countries

It’s not a secret that some countries censor the Internet heavily to control the information their citizens can access. Often enough, posting an opinion on social media (if social media isn’t banned in such a state) in a perfectly civil manner can lead to problems with the law.

So if you do have an opinion that is critical of the local regime, think twice before making it public.

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