How to ensure online security during your travels

How to Ensure Online Security During Your Travels

Going travelling and worried about your online security? Having travelled around the world working, I totally understand the concerns moving around and accessing public Wi-Fi can bring. In this guide, I share my tips for protecting your online security during your travels.

When you’re travelling for business and relying on hotel, conference centre, and even public Wi-Fi, your risk of online threats increases. Unfortunately, hackers are actively seeking opportunities to infect mobile devices and exploit them to gain access to the network. In fact, according to Forbes, a whopping 4 in 10 people have had their information compromised while using public WiFi. For the majority of these people, it happened while using WiFi at an airport or restaurant. To protect yourself, it’s really important to follow best practices while travelling with your work devices. Make sure to use a robust cybersecurity solution for your internal network to maintain protection even when you’re away from the office.

How to ensure online security during your travels: Cybersecurity tips when travelling

1. Disable automatic connection

When you’re away from home, a mobile firewall can control the traffic flow to and from your device to ensure security. Before leaving for your destination, disable the auto-connect options and remove the network SSIDs from your device’s list. Machine-in-the-middle attacks can exploit these features. Additionally, remember to deactivate Bluetooth when not in use. I learnt this the hard way when recently visiting San Francisco, when I discovered someone was trying to take over my phone via Bluetooth – something I hadn’t realised possible!

2. Beware of public wi-fi

When connecting to public hot spots or wireless networks found in hotels, airplanes, cafes, or transportation, you need to be cautious. Always confirm the precise procedures and networks with the staff. Hackers often exploit these public networks to collect sensitive data. If you are connected to a public network, ensure that you only access “https” sites and refrain from online shopping or accessing any sensitive data to prevent security breaches. If feasible, always use your own data network connection or ensure a VPN is in place. A good VPN hides your IP address and prevents network administrators from seeing what you’re transmitting. Attackers will be unable to see the location masked by VPN if we are talking about a high-quality VPN. VeePN offers an excellent reputation, functionality, and multi-platform – the first candidate for testing on your part.

3. Take steps for secure login

Before you travel, make sure to strengthen your cybersecurity arsenal by using robust passwords. It makes a big difference whether your device gets physically stolen or a hacker tries to access your personal data remotely. Ensure that your passwords are at least 12 characters long and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. When possible, enable multi factor authentication. You can find this two-step verification method in the security and policy settings of popular email and social media accounts. It will protect your devices even if cybercriminals know your password.

4. Create a Backup

To ensure the safety of your data during travel, regularly back it up to either another physical device like an encrypted external hard drive or the cloud. This precaution will protect against data breaches or the loss of your data or devices while on the go.

Laptop security on the beach

5. Be careful with location information

When you’re on holiday, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to promptly update your social media networks (hello Instagram Stories and TikTok) with pictures and locations. However, this behaviour can pose problems if a cybercriminal gains access to your social media pages. They can track your location and potentially break into your hotel room or even your home, stealing valuables while you’re away. In fact, it’s annoying to know that sites can track you too. This can be easily dealt with if you use a free extension for your browser. It’s always wise to exercise caution when sharing information on social media, particularly regarding your whereabouts.

6. Encrypt Your Data

When you travel with sensitive data on your laptop, it’s recommended to fully encrypt your device using disk encryption software. This ensures that your data remains inaccessible to unauthorized individuals, as it requires multiple authentication factors to unlock the disk. By scrambling the data, it becomes impossible to decipher without the correct password. Ideally, it’s advisable not to store sensitive data on your device. Instead, accessing the data through the cloud via an encrypted connection, such as a cloud access security broker (CASB), is a better option.

7. Update your software

Ensure that all your devices are up to date with the latest software, especially anti-malware and antivirus protection. Many people mistakenly assume that updates are routine improvements. I for one know that I often ignore the update prompts on my Mac and iPhone. In reality, system updates often address software vulnerabilities by installing patches for a particular program or product.

8. Use public computers with caution

To maintain your online security, it’s crucial to be wary of the potential cyber risks associated with public computers. Internet cafes often lack adequate cybersecurity measures, leaving you with less protection than usual. Hence, it’s advisable to avoid accessing sensitive financial information and exercise caution when checking your emails and social media accounts. Public computers may have been compromised by cybercriminals who install malicious software, such as keyloggers. These programs capture keystrokes and send the information to the hacker via email. While basic keyloggers can be bypassed by using an on-screen keyboard, more advanced programs can also record on-screen movements. Therefore, it is essential to enable multi factor authentication for your emails and online accounts. After using a public computer, make sure to log out of your personal accounts and delete both cookies and browser history to maintain your privacy.

How to Ensure Online Security During Your Travels: FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about how to ensure online security during your travels:

How can I secure my Internet while travelling?

I’d recommend following all of the steps above, although there are a few extra things you can do to secure your internet while travelling to safeguard your data and privacy. Here are a few extra steps you can take:

  • Use strong, unique passwords. Don’t get lazy like I used to be – make sure you use strong, unique passwords for each online account. If you’re forgetful, try using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords securely.
  • Be wary of phishing scams. When using the internet – especially while travelling – be cautious of unsolicited emails, messages, or links – especially those asking for personal information or login credentials. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments to be on the safe side.
  • Use secure browsing practices. Always use secure websites (those with “https://” in the URL) for online transactions and sensitive activities. Avoid entering sensitive information on unsecured websites.
  • Lock your devices. Use strong passwords or biometric authentication to lock your devices when they’re not in use. Consider using physical locks or anti-theft devices for laptops and bags – these luggage locks are perfect and I always use them to lock my bags while travelling.
  • Activate remote tracking and wiping. To prevent data theft, it’s a good idea to enable features that allow you to remotely track, lock, or wipe your devices in case they’re lost or stolen.

By implementing these measures, you can significantly enhance your internet security while travelling, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable experience.

What is the most secure Wi-Fi option when travelling?

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is often considered the most secure Wi-Fi option when travelling. It encrypts your internet traffic, shielding your data from potential threats on public or unsecured networks, ensuring a safer browsing experience.

Does a VPN protect you on hotel Wi-Fi?

Yes, a VPN can provide significant protection when using hotel Wi-Fi. It encrypts your internet traffic, shielding your data from potential eavesdropping or interception on unsecured networks, adding a layer of security that helps protect your sensitive information from prying eyes, hackers, or other threats present on public networks like those in hotels.

How do I keep my phone safe on holiday?

Securing your phone while on holiday is crucial for protecting your data and privacy. Here are some key tips:

  • Set up lock screen security – use a strong password or biometrics to lock your phone, preventing unauthorised access if your phone is lost or stolen.
  • Update software and apps – ensure your phone’s operating system and apps are up-to-date with the latest security patches and fixes.
  • Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi – encrypt your connections by using a VPN to safeguard your internet traffic from potential hackers on unsecured networks.
  • Enable ‘Find My Phone’ – by activating tracking services, like the Find My Phone feature or similar, you can locate your phone if it’s lost or stolen. It can even allow you to remotely lock or wipe your device if needed.
  • Be cautious with public charging stations – use your own charger or a portable power bank instead of public USB charging stations. These can potentially transfer malware or access your data.
  • Avoid suspicious links and apps – stay vigilant by being cautious of clicking on unknown links or downloading apps from unofficial sources. Stick to trusted app stores and websites to minimise the risk of malware or phishing attacks.
  • Be mindful of physical security – keep your phone safe, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid leaving your phone unattended in public places. Use a secure and hidden pocket or a theft-proof bag to carry it. I use one of these crossover bags, which allows you to keep your belongings close.

By implementing these measures, you can significantly enhance the security of your phone while enjoying your holiday, ensuring a safer and more worry-free experience.

How to ensure online security during your travels: conclusion

The above travel security tips are your investment in cybersecurity, which will always pay off. While you might get protection for your bank account and personal information, you likely invest minimal time in thinking about it. In the same way, you don’t know exactly when the listed preventive measures will save you, but you will thank yourself when you realise how many times you could have been hacked if it weren’t for these tips. Happy VPN-ing!

This article was written in conjunction with VeePN. If you have any questions about how to ensure online security during your travels, drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to help. I’ve plenty of experience protecting my devices while travelling as I’m often working overseas.

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