Nowadays, everything is online. Which is super convenient for us travellers, but it also puts our information, finances and safety at a much higher risk.
There are several precautions that everyone should take to provide a much needed bump in online security. Although this is relevant even at home, it is especially important while away since you don’t have control over the internet that you are connecting too.
Think about all the free wifi that you connect to while travelling; the airport, your hotel or rented home, restaurants and cafes, museums, the list goes on. These networks won’t have the same security measures that you’re used to at home or at work- even if you aren’t aware of them, they’re there- leaving you open to hackers and attacks.
Since your digital fingerprint is much more vulnerable in these cases, it’s important to add extra measures directly onto your devices.
The very first step to ensuring your security is to always keep your devices and software up to date. You know that annoying “software update” reminder you always push to tomorrow? Well it’s actually really important to update as soon as you can, especially if you’re about to head on a trip. These updates close off holes in your system that have been attacked or were found to be vulnerable, so the longer you ignore that reminder, the more at-risk your device will be.
Once everything is up-to-date, consider installing a third-party firewall, which is basically just a virtual wall around your information that prevents unauthorized access through the internet. Your computer will have a built-in firewall, but it may be turned off automatically, so be sure to turn it on. Better yet, install a specialized software which will generally be smarter and stronger. A quick google search will show you all the different options for your specific device.
Another software to have installed is an anti-virus and an anti-malware, which continuously analyze your device (such as emails and downloads) for viruses and then neutralizes them. A good anti-malware system will also protect from the introduction of viruses in the first place, by ways such as preventing you from following dangerous links. These two software can come together as an integrated system, but having each separately will generally be stronger.
And now the VPN, a virtual private network. This is basically a tunnel through the internet, where your information travels from your computer through to your email host, bank account, reservation service, websites, and so on. This tunnel makes your activities virtually invisible to others, and even if it is found, it is incredibly difficult for hackers to follow and intercept. With a VPN you will be invisible and safe on even the weakest internet connection.
Another perk of using a VPN, is that it masks your IP address. This address tells all of your services where the internet connection that you’re using is located, so in a new country, your Netflix will switch to that version and your email and Facebook will have to confirm that it’s actually you before letting you log in. The benefit of blocking this locator for travelers is that you can view prices in your home currency, will receive English-based google searches, and usually avoid any government censorship. It will be like your computer is still at home!
Be sure to install a VPN service that works on laptops as well as for apps on tablets and smartphones. Look for at least a 256- bit encryption, unlimited internet bandwidth, multiple servers throughout the world- including your home country, and live 24/7 support. Again, a quick google search will go over all of the features so that you can select the right service for your digital needs.
These days, maintaining your digital privacy is crucial, especially when you’re in a foreign country. Using a firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware software are the first steps, but including a VPN is the most important to fully close yourself off to attacks.