Travelling can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it also comes with its own set of risks. One such risk is the potential for cyber-security threats while you’re away from home. Cyber-criminals are constantly looking for new opportunities to exploit unsuspecting travellers and take advantage of their lack of knowledge about online security. To help ensure that your travels go smoothly, here are some essential tips on how to protect yourself and stay safe while travelling abroad.
1. Research your destination's security protocols and laws
This will ensure that you're fully informed about what to expect while travelling. This will enable you to take appropriate precautions and avoid any potential security risks. Start by doing research on the country you are going to.
For instance, some countries have strict laws and regulations surrounding internet use and social media, which may be different from what you're used to. In China, for example, certain websites and social media platforms are blocked, while in the UAE, public displays of affection are prohibited. Additionally, some countries have stringent visa requirements or may demand that you share your electronic devices for inspection upon entry.
Planning and being mindful of local customs and regulations can help to keep your trip stress-free and secure. Familiarise yourself with the local emergency services, such as the police, ambulance, and fire department, and keep copies of important documents, such as your passport and travel itinerary, in a safe place. With these measures, you can enjoy a smooth and trouble-free journey while protecting yourself against the threats of cyber criminals and other risks.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or TOR
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an essential way of maintaining your online security and privacy while travelling. It creates a secure and private connection between your device and the internet, which ensures that your online activities are encrypted and your data is protected from prying eyes.
When using public Wi-Fi, such as in airports, cafes, or hotels, your personal information such as passwords, credit card details, and browsing history can be easily intercepted and stolen. Using a VPN safeguards your online data and prevents you data from being intercepted.
While the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is highly recommended for maintaining online security and privacy while travelling, it's important to note that it does not make you completely anonymous.
While a VPN can encrypt your online activity and hide your IP address, it does not prevent websites or services from gathering information about your online behaviour. Additionally, your VPN provider may keep some logs of your activity, which could potentially be accessible to third parties.
It's also worth mentioning that some countries, such as China and Russia, have increasingly sophisticated methods of detecting and blocking VPN usage. In these locations, the use of VPNs may even be illegal or subject to heavy fines.
Therefore, while VPNs are a useful tool in safeguarding your online activities while travelling, it's important to also practice good digital hygiene, such as regularly checking your accounts for any unusual activity, using strong and unique passwords, and avoiding suspicious websites or emails. By combining these measures with the use of a VPN, you can help ensure a safe and secure online experience while travelling.
It's important to choose a VPN service that is reputable and reliable and offers comprehensive security features. A good VPN service should provide robust encryption protocols, a strict no-logs policy, and high-speed servers in multiple locations. You should also choose a VPN provider that has a responsive and helpful customer support team that can assist you with any issues you may encounter while travelling.
In addition to using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), it's also worth considering using TOR (The Onion Router) for extra protection when travelling abroad. TOR is a free and open-source software that enables anonymized communication on the Internet. It works by routing your internet traffic through a series of random nodes operated by volunteers around the world, making it difficult for anyone to trace your online activities back to your device.
TOR is particularly useful when travelling to countries that have a track record of internet censorship and surveillance. For example, in countries like China and Iran, where the government often monitors and filters online content, using TOR can help you bypass those restrictions and access the internet more freely.
However, it's worth noting that TOR is not perfect and has some drawbacks. First, because your internet traffic is routed through multiple nodes, it can slow down your internet connection. Additionally, some websites and online services might block access from TOR exit nodes, making it difficult to access certain content.
3. Back up all of your important documents before you leave home
When travelling, it's important to be prepared for any unexpected events. One way to safeguard yourself is by backing up all of your important documents before you leave home. By doing so, you can ensure that even if you lose your physical copies or they are stolen, you still have access to the information you need.
To begin, create digital copies of your important documents, such as your passport, driver's license, travel insurance, and any other relevant identification. Save these documents onto a secure cloud storage service, or onto an encrypted USB drive or Micro-SD card that can be easily concealed.
This will ensure that you can easily access your documents from anywhere and on any device that you have access to.
In addition to creating digital copies, it's also a good idea to make copies of your physical documents. Leave one set of copies with a trusted family member or friend and carry another set with you while you travel. This way, you have a backup in case you lose your original copies or they are stolen.
Another important document to consider backing up is your travel itinerary. This can include your flight details, hotel reservations, and any other important travel information. By having a digital copy of your itinerary, you can easily access this information if your physical copy gets lost or stolen.
Remember to update your backup copies regularly, especially if you make any changes to your itinerary or receive any new important documents while travelling. Finally, make sure that all of your backups are stored securely and that you have access to them when you need them.
Overall, by taking the time to back up your important documents before you leave home, you can have peace of mind and focus on enjoying your travels without worrying about losing important information.
4. Update all software on your devices regularly
It is important to keep all software on your devices up to date to maintain optimal cyber-security when travelling. Cyber-criminals are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in outdated software that they can exploit to gain access to your personal information.
Updates to your device's operating system and individual applications contain security patches that protect against known vulnerabilities and improve the overall security of your device. Failure to update software can result in an open invitation to cyber-criminals, who can easily infiltrate your device and steal sensitive information.
Moreover, many software updates contain improved features that can enhance your browsing experience while also improving your security. For example, updated web browsers typically include security features such as anti-phishing protection and pop-up blockers that can safeguard your online activity.
Failing to keep your software updated also poses a risk to your devices' performance. Outdated software can cause your device to run slower, become less effective and in some cases, become unresponsive. Not only does this affect your productivity while travelling, but it also makes your device more susceptible to malware attacks.
To stay ahead of cyber criminals, regularly update your device's software before and during your travels. Set your device to install automatic updates, so you don't have to manually update every app on your device. Additionally, double-check that all downloaded updates are from the correct and legitimate sources to avoid falling victim to fake or malicious software.
In conclusion, updating your software regularly is a simple yet essential step in maintaining optimal cyber security when travelling. Not only does it protect your personal information, but it also enhances your travels by ensuring your device runs smoothly and securely.
5. Keep track of where you are logging in from and make sure to log out when finished
One of the most essential considerations for protecting your online accounts is maintaining awareness of where you are logging in from. Always remember to log out once you finish using a device - this practice becomes even more necessary when utilising public or communal devices such as libraries, airports or hotels.
When dealing with any form of a shared tech device, complacency risks exposing yourself to severe cyber threats like malicious attacks.
6. Bring only the essential items with you, and store them securely when not in use
A key component of safe travel involves being proactive in limiting what you take with you on your journey. With this strategy, certain essential items such as passports, credit cards, and cash are kept secured against potential theft or loss by minimising their exposure which simultaneously reduces the chances of becoming targets for pickpockets.
Proper storage of important items is crucial to ensure their safety.
Utilising a hotel room safe, carrying a secure wallet or money belt, or hiding them in a locked suitcase or bag are viable options. In addition, creating duplicates of vital documents like your driver's license and passport and storing them separately from the originals will provide backup support to acquire replacement documents if the primary ones get misplaced or stolen.
To mitigate the risk of misplacing significant papers or being susceptible to thievery during travel, it is advisable to only bring along indispensable belongings and ensure proper storage when not in use.
8. A note about Encryption
In today's digital age, encryption has become an essential tool for protecting sensitive information while travelling. Whether you are a business traveller or a tourist, the risk of data theft is very high when you are on the go. Encryption ensures that your data is secure and inaccessible to anyone without the encryption key.
However, when travelling internationally, it is important to be mindful of key disclosure laws. Some countries have laws that require travellers to disclose their encryption keys if requested by law enforcement or border officials. Failure to comply can result in severe legal consequences, including imprisonment or fines.
For this reason, it is important to research the key disclosure laws of any country you plan to visit and take steps to protect your data accordingly. This may involve using more sophisticated encryption techniques or choosing to store sensitive information on secure servers rather than on your devices.
To summarise, cyber security is an important consideration when travelling. Following the tips outlined in this article will help keep your data secure and protect you from potential threats. Make sure to update all of your software before leaving on a trip and be aware of where you are logging into accounts from. Additionally, bring only essential items with you and store them securely when not in use. Finally, research key disclosure laws for any country that you plan to visit so that you can take steps to adequately protect sensitive information with encryption if necessary. With these practices in mind, safe travels!