Fall Travel: Beware your digital security blind spots

You use passwords, anti-virus software and due diligence to protect yourself from malicious attacks that could harm your home computer. But what about when you travel? How can you keep yourself safe when you aren’t in the comfort and security of your own home, but in a strange place with unknown threats?

Joseph Mroszczyk, Intelligence Products and Services Manager for Global Rescue, offers this advice for travelers this fall to avoid compromising their digital safety.

  • While traveling overseas, especially in non-Western countries, it is generally safe to assume that your online behavior and interactions are being monitored. While this may not always be the case, it will help establish a security-conscious mindset and make you more aware of what you’re doing on your phone or your computer. It is rare that authorities will confront a traveler regarding their online behavior, but you should still be concerned with protecting your privacy and preventing the compromise of any sensitive information, including personal identity, bank account information, family relations, etc.
  • Be aware of the political climate in your destination country. Conditions can range widely in terms of privacy of electronic communication. In some countries, comments made on social media can result in fines or arrests, or may result in additional questioning or scrutiny during customs screening. It is always safe 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 attempts at hacking or monitoring and may need to take more precautions, whereas if you are a tourist going to a modern Western country, the risks will be significantly less.
  • Use encrypted e-mail, not your personal email address, and log into a virtual private network (VPN) when on the internet. 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 or private information while you are traveling.
  • When possible, keep electronic devices with you at all times while traveling. If this is not practical, use a safe in the hotel room to store electronic devices while not in the room.
  • Utilize a hardline internet connection whenever possible. Wi-Fi connections are easily monitored or hacked by third parties. Use of a VPN will also minimize this threat when using Wi-Fi.
  • Password protect all electronic devices. Utilize a different password for each.
  • Ensure Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are turned off on all electronic devices when not in use, especially when doing work on the device (i.e. typing a document).
  • Ensure virus detection software is up-to-date and present on all devices, including Windows-based smartphones and tablets.
  • Consider utilizing a “clean” device for typing purposes that never touches the internet.
  • Store all work files in an encrypted container located on a removable storage device that is secured when not in use.
  • Erase all unneeded documents and personal photos from devices before travel.
  • 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.
  • Maintain a low electronic footprint while traveling. For example, do not post to social media during the trip and ensure past postings and/or connections cannot be misconstrued as hostile. Maintain private settings on all profiles. Ensure any location tracking mechanisms on your phone are disabled.
  • Travelers to certain countries should assume their data has been compromised if they connect to the Internet or other networks.As much as possible, do not conduct sensitive business, such as banking, while overseas or on any unsecured networks.

Global Rescue provides security, medical, and intelligence services to travelers every day, all over the globe. Being a Global Rescue member makes you a safer traveler anywhere you go. For more information, go to GlobalRescue.com.