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Digital Security While Traveling


December 18, 2019
Categories: Safety, Travel Tips, Security and Intelligence

You use strong passwords, anti-virus software and due diligence to protect yourself from malicious attacks that could harm your home computer. But what can you do when you travel?

When you’re in a strange place with unknown threats, how can you keep yourself safe when you aren’t in the comfort and security of your own home?

It’s a big issue for businesses, organizations and individuals.

According to CyberSecurity Ventures, damage related to cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021. This includes phishing schemes, malware, ransomware attacks and cyber invasions.

To ensure digital security while traveling, Global Rescue experts offer the following advice to travelers.

Have a digital safety mindset

While traveling in a foreign country, it is generally safe to assume government organizations, criminals or both could be targeting your private information and monitoring your online behavior. While this may not always be the case, it will make you more aware of what you’re doing on your phone or your computer. Authorities will rarely confront a traveler regarding their online behavior, but you should still protect your privacy and prevent the compromise of any sensitive information.

Research your destination

Conditions can range widely in terms of privacy of electronic communication. In some countries, comments made on social media can result in fines, arrests or additional questioning or scrutiny during customs screening. It is always safer to avoid making any political, social, religious or other controversial comments online while traveling and, in some cases, even before travel.

Understand your unique risk profile.

For instance, if you are a journalist traveling to an illiberal country to report on a controversial topic, you may be more susceptible to monitoring or hacking attempts. You may need to take more precautions, whereas if you are a tourist going to a Western or democratic country, the risks will be significantly less.

Update your electronics.

Phishing attacks are getting more and more sophisticated. Ensure virus detection software is present and up to date on all devices, including Windows-based smartphones and tablets.

AARP suggests travelers think about cybersecurity this way: “Would you leave your Social Security card out on the seat next to you?” Erase all unneeded documents and personal photos from devices before travel. Delete apps that might include personal information (like a banking app).

Download a commercial “secure deletion” program or utilize the “secure empty trash” feature on a Mac. Remember, even if data is deleted using the recycle bin, it can still be retrieved. It doesn’t hurt to clear your browser history as well.

Password protect all devices.

Utilize a different password for each electronic device. Consider storing all work files in an encrypted container located on a removable storage device that is secured when not in use, or store data on the cloud rather than on your device. There are apps that equip your browser to automatically use HTTPS (S indicates secure) rather than HTTP.

Consider Two-Factor Authentication.

Two-Factor Authentication is more secure because it requires a knowledge factor (a password) and a possession factor (something the user has or receives). For travelers, this could be a time-sensitive code delivered by SMS or a code generated by an authenticator application.

Maintain a low electronic footprint.

Limit or avoid social media activity while in-country, which can reveal personal information, location and other sensitive information. Maintain private settings on all profiles. Some experts even suggest temporarily deleting social media apps from your phone. Ensure location tracking mechanisms on your phone are disabled.

Maintain control over electronics.

To the greatest extent possible, maintain control over all electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) by keeping them with you at all times. If this is not practical, use the hotel room safe to store electronic devices.

Utilize a hardline internet connection.

Do not connect to public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks at airports, train stations and other public areas. Wi-Fi connections are easily monitored or hacked by third parties. If wireless connectivity is essential, utilize a virtual private network (VPN) and do not conduct sensitive business, such as online banking. Consumer Reports warns travelers to be wary of free Wi-Fi.

Less email is better.

Do not send any emails while overseas on any private or personal issues that can wait until you are home. Alert friends and family of your trip before you leave and make sure they do not send you any sensitive information while you are traveling.

Beware of unknown flash drives.

Never plug an unknown USB flash drive into your computer or other device. Do not charge a phone or other device with a USB unless it is connected directly to an electric outlet.

Avoid outlets.

Consider an external battery charger so you do not have to connect your device to outlets. There are portable battery chargers that provide 15 hours of power to laptops and cell phones.

Global Rescue provides medical, security and intelligence services, like digital safety tips, to travelers every day, all over the globe. Click here to learn more about Global Rescue memberships.


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