Can you even image being offline for several weeks now? It seems quite hard to do, right? And yet, that’s what vacationing used to be all about. At least, it was before the rise of the social networks. So, gone are the days when you only used the hotel’s computer to check some pressing emails. Wifi has become indispensable over the years and it’s available pretty much everywhere. Especially when you’re traveling abroad, that’s generally considered a good thing. But is it, really? In this article, we share some tips and tricks to protect your online identity while traveling.
Deep down you know that Wi-Fi is a necessary evil, don’t you? So, what precautions have you taken to protect yourself from cyber-crime? Are you one of many travelers who have ignored this issue so far? Well, so are we. We trusted on public Wifi during recent trips to France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Malta. And luckily, we managed to stay worry-free so far but that’s no guarantee for the future. We have always put it off because it seems like such an advanced subject to apply in our personal life. But no more excuses, it’s time to start taking cybercrime seriously. Especially with our upcoming month-long trip to Hawaii on the horizon. Now, are you with us?
We’re not cyber security experts but we’ve done our due diligence in terms of research, resulting in these easy-to-follow precautions to protect your online identity while traveling.
Public Wi-Fi do’s and don’ts
Avoid using public Wi-Fi
Don’t use it, period. That’s the best way to protect your online identity while traveling, although not very realistic. It should, however, be your initial mind-set because that will keep alert to the dangers. By the way, this app offers an overview of all hotspots for iOS.
Be mindful of the types of site you visit
Avoid using sites that require you to log-in or that hold or ask for sensitive information. So, browse some restaurants and local recommendations but don’t make a purchase or consult your banking site. It’s pretty easy for hackers to intercept this information.
Also, make sure to only visit https websites and no http sites. The ‘s’ in https stands for ‘secure’ and encrypts data.
If you decide to put yourself at risk by logging in, then at least log out as soon as you leave the website.
Review your apps and remove those that you won’t use
It’s not because you’re not using the app, that it’s not active. Many apps have access to your camera, contacts or location and transmit data in the background. They’re usually less secure than websites, too. Therefore, review your apps before you go abroad. Removing or logging out of apps you don’t plan on using will not only keep you safe but will increase your battery life too.
Update your apps and software before going abroad
Updating your services will make sure you have the services’ latest security measures installed. It’s not risk-proof but it still is a good precaution.
Verify the network you’re about to connect to
Hackers often create hotspots with credible names, resembling the name of the actual hotspot’ to trick you into logging in on their network. Therefore, make sure to always ask a staff member for the official network name.
Don’t automatically connect to known networks
After every use of Wi-Fi, go through the list of wireless connections and remove the networks you don’t plan on using again in the near future. Also, when you’re done surfing the web on a certain Wi-Fi network, switch off Wi-Fi entirely to protect your online identity when traveling.
Don’t use public chargers
Switch off Bluetooth
This is an obvious one but at the same time one that’s often forgotten. If you’re anything like us, you like to share pictures using AirDrop. But make sure to switch it off after every use because it leaves your device and information very vulnerable.
Start fresh by clearing your browser history
Another way to protect your online identity while traveling is to remove all saved passwords and clear your cached files.
Secure your folders and files
You may share music and pictures from your folders with friends or family. Make sure to switch off these sharing privileges off when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Otherwise any other user of that same Wi-Fi network may have access to these files.
For MacGo to System preferences / Sharing and untick ‘file sharing’.
For MicrosoftGo to Control Panel / Network and sharing center / Change advanced sharing settings.
Common sense do’s and don’ts
Be mindful of what you post on social media
Don’t post your full travel schedule on social media and keep your location hidden. This is a tricky one, even more so for travel bloggers like us. We are, however, very mindful of what we post online and when we post it. As you know, Instagram is our favorite social medium. Even there, we usually post pictures after we’ve published a blogpost so, once we return from a trip. It’s very rare for us to post live, simply because we do keep our security in mind. We wouldn’t want our house to be empty when we return from holiday. So, be mindful of every status update you want to make. And if you can’t resist posting a picture of your adventure, then disable geotagging on photos.
For iOSGo to Settings / Privacy / Location services / Camera and select ‘Never’.
For AndroidGo to Settings / Geo tags (sometimes an icon) and disable it. Alternatively, disable it from all sources: Go to Settings / Location and switch off or deselect. Note that these setting may very depending on the phone’s manufacturer.
Set-up a series of unique passwords for the apps and services you will use
You should have unique passwords for every app and service you use, anyway. If you don’t, however, now’s the time to set these up. Especially for the services you plan on using abroad. You could, for example, use a temporary one with a variation per service. Just make sure it’s a strong password in order to protect your online identity while traveling.
Set up two-factor verification
If someone does gain access to your web service, they’ll need a second code that will be sent to one of your trusted devices. Think of it as an extra security layer by means of a verification code. We use it for many of our online services.
Download your maps beforehand
Minimize the need for Wi-fi by making some preparations beforehand such as downloading maps. We always download the Google map area of our destination(s) so we can use it offline when we’re actually there. Your battery will benefit from it too since, depending on the area you plan on seeing, it might take a while to download the corresponding map.
Alternative means of connecting
Your smartphone as a instant hotspot
A fancy word for this is ‘tethering’. Just keep an eye on your mobile data limits because you’ll reach them before you realize it. So, maybe not the best option if you’re planning on using it for more than a short city break.
Mi-Fi or Mobile Wi-Fi with a portable router
It allows you to set up your personal Wi-Fi hotspot and requires a personal router and a local SIM card. Your Mi-Fi network can be used for multiple devices.
There are many routers available. If you consider a purchase, take the battery life into account.
If you prefer a one-stop shop for both router and service, you could consider GeeFi You pay for the router ($189) with 48h battery life and pay per day you use ($9.99 per 24h) so, no monthly plan. In return, you get unlimited data in around 100 countries across the globe.
Free wifi safe via FON
If you sign up with FON, you agree to share a portion of your Wi-Fi and in return, get to log in for free on other shared Fonspots worldwide. Only certain networks per country offer this service to their clients for free. If your network isn’t one of those, you can take part in the international Fon network anyway by purchasing the Fonera router or by paying per use in the app.
Use protection! It’s a known advice when it comes to personal relations but it should be just as popular to protect your online identity while traveling. A VPN or Virtual Private Network is what you need to eliminate most of the risks mentioned. It hides everything you send over the internet by concealing your IP address and encrypting your connection. So, even when you’re connected through an insecure Wi-Fi spot, your information will be private and safe. There is, however, one nuance to this safety: A VPN secures the connection from your device to a VPN server but not necessarily from the VPN server to the website you visit. So, make sure to avoid http sites at all times.
You might use a VPN in order to access your work files from home, but there are many options for personal use too. They’re pretty inexpensive, user friendly and some even offer a multi-device option. Some options we’ve seen recommended are NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
How will you protect your online identity while traveling?
I learned so much from the research I did for this article and I’m now determined to use protection. Whether you consider this article to be a wake-up call or rather a friendly reminder, keep it close whenever you go abroad. Attach it to your packing list, put a reminder before the major holiday periods… whatever works for you. You’re more vulnerable than you often realize. Simply make sure to protect your online identity while traveling.
Is there any precaution you’d like to add to the list? Any other suggestion or tip to help our readers remember to secure their digital persona? Let us know! As noted in the intro, we’re not cyber experts so feel free to supplement the information provided in this article.
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