How to Keep Your Information Safe While Traveling



Most frequent travelers like to think they know how to keep themselves safe, whether it be making sure all your valuables are secure or having the habit of checking your seat every time you get up, but there are a few security risks that are often overlooked not matter how obvious they might seem, especially when it comes to your online safety. When traveling abroad, we become more vulnerable to getting our personal information and devices hacked. Not only are you more at risk because you are in an unfamiliar place, but you are also at risk as a foreigner.

Most U.S. travelers are wary when traveling to places like China, Russia, and the Middle East, but even traveling to an ally country has it’s risks. According to Travel Recon, a travel safety, security, and risk management company, not only is government spying regular between different nations, there is a lot of corporate espionage happening as well. If you are a regular tourist or do business in something like agriculture, you’ll be safer than if you are going abroad to do banking or work in finance or even technology.

Public Internet Connections

One of the easiest ways to make sure your data stays safe while traveling is to never use a public Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB connection. Public connections are the most common ways hackers can access your personal information or data. Charging your device on a convenient USB charging station might be tempting, but it is far safer to find a regular outlet to plug into. It’s also a good idea to make sure your devices Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings are turned off so that they won’t automatically connect to unprotected networks without your manual consent.

If you have to use a public connection, make sure to never access anything like online banking or sensitives files or emails. If you would still like to keep tabs on your bank accounts while traveling, set up and use your own Wi-Fi hotspot. Many smart phones have the option to provide a mobile hotspot, but some mobile carriers also offer separate mobile hotspots that can often provide higher speeds. For added security, you can set up a VPN to make sure your IP and data are hidden and secure. There are apps available, such as Hotspot Shield VPN, which routes your web traffic through a secure network and doesn’t track or keep logs of your online activity.

Securing Your Devices

Being hacked through a public network isn’t the only way your data can be stolen. Someone trying to get access to your personal data doesn’t have to find a way to virtually connect with your device if they can simply steal it the old fashioned way. To protect yourself if that should happen, it is important to make sure there is nothing on your device that can be easily accessed. Un-sync any cloud storage prior to your trip, and make sure no passwords are saved on any apps or anywhere that is easily accessible. Delete any files that don’t need to be there and download everything you don’t need or wouldn’t want anyone else to get a hold of onto a hard drive to leave at home.

You should also update passwords to anything important prior to departure for things such as online bank accounts, email, reservations sites, cloud storage, and even Facebook. Apps like LastPass can generate strong passwords and store them for you, but make sure it is set to not automatically start up when your device is turned on and needs a password to be accessed each time. Some travelers will purchase burner phones or get burner phones from their companies so that they don’t have to take their personal or business phones with them since they could be holding a lot of sensitive information. In case they are stolen, there would be nothing of value to be found.

Your devices themselves should also have very strong passwords and be kept turned off when not necessary. Obviously, the best thing would be to have your devices on your person at all times, but that is not always possible, especially with laptops. If you must leave them in your hotel room, always store them in the safe, turned off and password protected, as someone from the hotel could always reset and open the safe if they wanted to.

Personal Documents

It is always good to keep copies of your ID, passport, and any other travel documents at home in case anything is lost or stolen, but having physical copies is not enough. Make sure any documents you will need while traveling are also stored securely online where you can access them at any time from any device. It will do you no good if your passport is stolen and your only copy was stored on your computer which was stolen as well. Using a secure online cloud storage service can be a good way to insure you;ll always be able to access important documents in case of an emergency. Many cloud storage services, such as Google Drive and DropBox are free to use, buy many other services are available that offer encryption as well as tighter security as paid subscriptions.

ATM & Phone Usage

Never use an ATM while abroad in an unfamiliar place unless you are in a very safe and secure hotel. It is better to go into a bank and speak with a teller, since it is easy for others to scan your info or do an express kidnapping at the ATM – where the kidnapper will hold you at the ATM until you pull out the money they want.

Virtual kidnappings are also becoming popular. Someone will call your hotel room to try and get personal information from you and then call a family member with the information and convince them they are holding you for ransom. If you get a call to your hotel room you were not expecting, do not give out any information, including your name, in order to avoid such a situation. Instead, hang up and call the front desk to verify that someone was calling you, as many virtual kidnappers will pose as members of the hotel staff. Another tactic that is often used is they will call you and say something along the lines of “I got a call from this number earlier, who is this?” in order to get your name. Unless you are familiar with the person on the other end of the line, know the number well, or intentionally called someone, never give out any personal information over the phone.

Staying Safe While Traveling Doesn’t Have to Be Scary 

Knowing all the things that can go wrong while traveling can be very daunting if not terrifying. There is a lot to keep in mind in order to keep yourself safe, but taking even the simplest of steps will help make your trip into a safe and memorable one. You will enjoy your trip that much more knowing that you have the proper safety protocols in place and that you’ve done everything you can in order to keep your private information private. Taking a little bit of time before your trip to prepare for your safety is very much worth it and will put your mind at ease so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your next trip when you finally take off.