If you are like me, you traveled a lot for work and fun before 2020. As things opened up in different places, traveling has increased too. Thankfully, our electronics keep us connected to both work and personal emails as well as providing us entertainment. Unfortunately, there are still people out there who want to steal your personal information, and when traveling, you can become a prime target. While you cannot stop hackers and thieves from trying, you can do your part to make it really hard by protecting your personal data and electronic devices.
Top 5 Tips to Stay Safe While Traveling
Here is a quick rundown of some tips that will help you stay safe while traveling for business or pleasure.
1. Don’t Advertise
This seems like such a simple and almost silly tip to be first on the list, but it can make a big difference in staying safe. Social media use is out of control in today’s world. When people aren’t taking a picture of their dog or cat, they are taking a picture of the hamburger they are getting ready to eat. Don’t advertise on your social media accounts that you are traveling. No matter how tempting it is to show everyone the authentic deep dish pizza you are eating at Giordano’s in Chicago (ok, don’t advertise it, but please don’t miss this place! Best deep dish I’ve ever had) on a business trip, just don’t! In effect, what you are doing is letting everyone know that you are not home and that you are likely on public Wi-Fi either at the hotel or whatever venue you may be visiting. Take the picture but wait until you get home to share it with the world.
2. Update and Backup Everything
If you know you are going to be traveling, take a second to get everything up to date. If Chrome is your favorite web browser, make sure you are using the most up-to-date version. Same goes for operating systems; if Mac pushes out a new OSX update, download it and install it so that you are up to date. Software companies update their software as vulnerabilities are discovered, and then the security patches are built into the new version. Secondly, back everything up. Get yourself an external hard drive and back up your computer, your pictures, and your files. In the event you are victim of ransomware, having a backup of everything can make it less painful. If you prefer to do it all in the cloud, Google Drive is good as well as iCloud. NO excuse to not have backups.
3. Think Before You Connect
Most of us bring our laptops when traveling, especially for work. Please don’t connect to public Wi-Fi, not even if it’s absolutely necessary. Public, unsecure Wi-Fi access points are like a hackers playground. There is a method of stealing information through unsecured Wi-Fi called SSID spoofing. You sit down with your muffin and coffee at your favorite café, and click on “Free Café Wi-Fi” thinking it is legit, when in fact it is a hacker that will steal everything once you connect. If you have to connect to public Wi-Fi, make sure it is secured, and use a VPN.
4. Use a VPN
The best practice to employ when connecting to secure public Wi-Fi is to use a virtual private network (VPN) connection. Think about walking through New York City streets at the busiest time of day… in this scenario you have your passwords, personal data just taped to your shirt. On your back you carry your backpack with all of your files and pictures, any pickpocket can snatch it likely without you even knowing. Now, picture the same scene, but instead of just walking through the crowd, a tunnel is built and only you can walk through it, everyone else just sees the tunnel, they can’t see you or your personal stuff. Which scenario is safer? That is what VPN does, it creates a secure wrapper or tunnel around your personal internet traffic, protecting it from nefarious web surfers. There are great, inexpensive personal VPN solutions such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN that will offer a monthly payment plan to keep you protected when connected to their VPN service. It’s worth it – just do it.
5. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Lastly, just be aware of your surroundings. In the military, they always taught me to have situational awareness. Sit where you can see the door of the restaurant; make sure you are not being followed to your car in the parking lot. Be aware of those around you. Do not be checking your feed while walking through the airport or at the hotel – pay attention. This tip is one of the easiest to apply. Avoid connecting your phone or laptop via Bluetooth to anything unless it is necessary.
Have Fun but Be Safe When you Travel
If you apply these tips, you can stay safe and enjoy your travels, whether for work or pleasure. When you get home, share that pic of the pizza you ate, you will be glad you made a safe choice in the end.