How to protect your identity when travelling

Travelling presents not only the excitement of exploration and new places, but also the challenge of safeguarding your devices and data.

Before you connect to foreign WiFi networks and swap SIM cards this summer, take some simple steps to protect your digital identity. Trevor Cooke, Earthweb’s online privacy expert, offers his top six tips for safeguarding your digital identity while on the move.

1) Invest in a VPN

When travelling, you’ll inevitably connect to numerous new Wi-Fi networks in airports, hotels, cafes, and restaurants. However, these open Wi-Fi channels can pose a significant security risk, as cybercriminals often exploit them to intercept sensitive data. 

One effective way to mitigate this risk is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) plugin on your device. Not only does a VPN encrypt your internet connection, shielding your data from prying eyes, but it also allows you to bypass geo-restrictions, granting access to your favourite shows and movies regardless of your location. That means you can still watch all your favourite Netflix shows, no matter where you are!

While many VPN services require a monthly subscription fee, their added protection far outweighs the potential cost of data breaches and identity theft in the long run.

2) Backup your data before you go

In bustling tourist destinations, the risk of falling victim to pickpockets is ever-present, with electronic devices like smartphones being prime targets. To preemptively protect your valuable data, ensure that all your information is securely backed up on devices left at home. This precaution ensures that even if your device is stolen, your data remains safe and accessible. 

Also, be sure to maintain regular backups during your trip using a cloud storage service to safeguard cherished travel memories like those all-important photos.

3) Prepare for two-factor authentication

While navigating through an additional step to access your accounts may seem inconvenient, two-factor authentication is an invaluable defence against cybercriminals. Picture it as akin to a bolt on a door in addition to a lock.

When travelling, the key is ensuring seamless access to these security features while abroad. Before departing, ask yourself: Do I have all the necessary devices to access my accounts? If you’re going to swap out your SIM card, you’ll also need to update the phone number associated with 2FA. Otherwise, you may get locked out.

4) Turn off bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use

It’s convenient to keep your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, but this can make your devices vulnerable to cyber attacks. Sometimes, Bluetooth attacks come in the form of cybercriminals sending things to your device, from spam advertisements to malware.

A more dangerous form of Bluetooth cybercrime is “Bluesnarfing,” where attackers can take data from your devices such as text messages and emails. They can then use this data to hack into your accounts. Cyber criminals have also found ways to create a backdoor into accounts through a process called “Bluebugging.” Because of these threats, it’s essential to keep devices in discoverable mode only when you actually want to pair your device.

Similar attacks can be made on open Wi-Fi networks, so switching off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is necessary before you travel. 

5) Use your hotel safe for devices

While most housekeepers aren’t going to rummage through your things, there are criminals known as “door pushers” who walk through hotel hallways looking for unlocked rooms to loot. Keep your valuables secure by taking advantage of the hotel safe. Only hotel management should have a universal key to unlock it, just in case you do forget the code you’ve created. 

6) Don’t make a note of your passwords

It’s common practice for users to have a physical note on their computer with passwords on it. This is fine at home, but take those off while you travel in case of theft. It’s not fun to have to replace stolen computers or phones, but it’s even worse to have to deal with the repercussions of a stolen identity.

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