A Guide to Protecting Your Information & Privacy While Traveling

Scott Repasky
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Expert Insight

Because there are so many ways to share photos and write about your experiences, it can be tricky to avoid creating an online trail about your whereabouts. But in reality trying to conceal your vacation activities is hard, too.

So experts split up vacation privacy obligations into two categories: keeping your location private, and limiting what others can find about you.

General Tips for Protecting Your Privacy When You Travel

Before you leave home, unplug everything. This way, if the computer is stolen, your personal information is still inaccessible.

Make sure you have locking devices on your bags. Frequently, theft happens when your bag accidentally falls off luggage holders, and then someone can grab it and run off.

Make sure you don’t make use of a hotel safe unless your bags are within eyesight.

Do not leave your laptop or other valuables in your car unless you are at the car and able to keep watch over it.

Do not leave your laptop on a restaurant table.

Do not leave your luggage on public transportation (i.e. trains, buses, etc.)

Do not use public computers for access to any of your secret information.

Consider using a service like Identity Safe that allows all of your information to be securely stored online and access from anywhere. Click here for more information.

Be careful using your smart phone. Do not use full personal details or credit card numbers while on your phone unless you are on a secure network. Click here for more information.

Before Taking Off

Security on Your Computer

In today’s world, our personal information is at risk wherever we go. It’s a good rule to treat your personal information the same way you would treat your physical possessions – carry only exactly what you need when you leave home. So, before you take off, think about what makes you unique and most vulnerable and if it’s necessary to take it with you.

Think about the travel information you carry on your computer. Do you have a paper copy of your plane ticket? What about car rental confirmation or hotel reservations? If you didn’t have access to the Internet, how would you keep track of your itinerary?

Always provide as little personal information as possible when you register for an online service. Don’t write down your birthday on a travel blog or other online site. Avoid giving out information that could be identifying such as your full name, address, etc. Remember, once you give it out, you can’t get it back. And, once it’s out there, it’s vulnerable to the world.

During Your Trip

While you are traveling from place to place, you want to use certain computers that you have no control over. Keep an eye on security cameras, key-loggers and public Wi-Fi networks as well as how secure your accounts are.
Public/Open Networks

Public or open networks are easy to be hacked because everyone is able to view the network. They often don’t require any type of username or password to access. This means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t restrict the type of Internet traffic users make.

Be sceptical about accessing your accounts from these types of networks. Don’t access anything that you have important information stored on. If you have a VPN or secure accounts, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can avoid this problem. Hackers can use the public Wi-Fi network to view your username and password. Give fake information to websites.

Computers/Devices

The computers and devices that you use have to be monitored in order to find out if they are secure. They can be key-logged, giving hackers the opportunity to get your information. On top of this, if you use public computers to view personal information, there is the chance that your login information will be automatically saved by the computer.

Back Home

When you get back home after a trip, the first thing you should do is use your smart phone or computer to connect to your home Wi-Fi system. This lets you review any settings changes or alerts that happened while you were gone.

Look for changes to your personal account information.

Check your router settings to ensure that the encryption and password are not weak. Your router encryption should be WPA or WPA2, and if you do not have these options, you might want to consider upgrading or your network will be vulnerable.

Change your Wi-Fi password.

If you can’t connect to your Wi-Fi at home, contact your Internet Service Provider.

5 Things Every Vacationer Must Protect

Starting to plan your next vacation is exciting, so take time to write down everything you want to pack. However, make sure you include important information about your properties at home and any essential data that is already in electronic storage.

Make sure you remember your passport. Of course, your passport should be scanned into your computer or even uploaded to the cloud. Take photos of your passport with your phone and/or scan it into your computer or a cloud server. You may also consider scanning and storing important documents such as insurance reports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, deeds, car titles, and credit cards. If you have sensitive data, it's best that you remove it from your computer or wipe it off, so make sure you back up any folders containing sensitive data.

Mobile Devices

Traveling means connecting to the Internet using your laptop, but it also means connecting through mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, etc. Any gadget with Internet capability is vulnerable when connecting to unsecured networks and public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Always protect your device by keeping your Wi-Fi connection encrypted and by using a VPN.

· A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, encrypts the information that your device sends and receives while on the Wi-Fi. It creates a secure connection to the Internet, ensuring that anything that you do on your device, stays on your device. VPNs are free and easy to install.

· Always connect your laptop to the Wi-Fi, by using a VPN. If you are connecting to the Wi-Fi at a hotel, coffee shop, etc. use the VPN. If you are not connecting to secure networks, you are being hacked.

Confidential Papers

While you are on vacation, you may be carrying various documentation about yourself and your family; identification, passports, social security cards, medical or school records, prescriptions or birth certificates. These documents in the wrong hands can lead to identity theft, credit fraud, medical identity theft, and unauthorized school entry.

How do you protect your valuable information when traveling?

When traveling, you may run into people who will attempt to get access to your things by any means. Protect yourself by taking these simple precautions.

Never carry your records in your purse or wallet.

Never leave them unattended.

Never put them in your hotel room.

Don’t leave them in your car.

Usually, you won’t even hand it over to an airline representative. You’ll never hand your identification to a cop. You’d never hand it to the photocopy guy at the copy store. Why hand it over to someone who has every opportunity to get your information?

Be smart and keep your information safe. Put it in a very safe place, your purse or wallet. Small purses or wallets are not safe. Big purses are not safe. Don’t put them in the hotel room.

ID & Credit Cards

Carry photo ID at all times. Keep your driver's license or passport in a secure location, not in your wallet once you are out and about. Keep one credit card that you know isn't stolen and that you aren't carrying and keep that in a separate secure place that you know has a difficult to compromise lock. Do not carry more than one credit card. If lost or stolen, you will have to contact the credit companies and cancel your card before they can be used. Credit cards are easy to scam and it is very difficult to get an unauthorized charge removed from your account.

If you have an email that is not personal to you and can be easily changed, register your new email address with the credit companies. They can send you a text message or email to that address when there is any activity on your account. Let them know at the same time that it has changed. This is an easy way to protect your information.

Make copies of your passport and airline tickets and keep the copies stored in a separate place from the originals. Check with your hotel and airline to see if they can store/hold your passport, tickets, and any other important documents for you. Again, keep a copy with you.

Travel Documents

Internet of Things Devices (IoT)

With so many different affordable internet enabled devices available, the physical world is now connected to the online world. Examples of IoT Technology include:

Smartphones

Smartphones are essentially personal computers that are now generally capable of connecting to the internet. Your smartphone is likely the most important device you own and it’s nearly always with you.

IP Cameras

These small devices are used to monitor doors and windows, baby nurseries, or whatever you choose. They are equipped with a Wi-Fi antenna and a video camera. You can use everything from a smartphone or tablet to watch live streaming video, receive video email alerts, and even speak to anyone in the room.

Smart Home Devices

Voice controlled smart lights, connected temperature detectors, robotic vacuum cleaners, weight scales, and door locks are just a few examples of devices that are now internet enabled.

Smart Watches

Watch manufactures have recently introduced a growing number of smart watches. They have a small screen and provide access to email, and other applications. They are also capable of connecting to the internet and alert you to new emails and text messages.

Small Gadgets

You can even find small devices like light bulbs, toys, smart fridges, and even smart water bottles that are now internet enabled.

Protecting Your Identity at Home

When you travel, some of your identity protection habits will change. In some ways, though, your habits have to remain the same or become even more strict.

I am not sure if you saw this, but there was a study done on hotel housekeepers by the California Super Lobby. It was very interesting that a number of people’s information was either on their computers or in unsecured areas. Many of these were not employees but contractors in contact with these computers and they had access to get their hands on data.

My take-away is that you first have to protect yourself at home. Your private information has to be protected in your home. So you need to have good strong passwords for your media servers and computers.

There are number of steps you can take to try to protect your private information while traveling. For instance, your mobile devices are with you all the time. So those are devices that you're going to need to protect. Anyone that is paying attention to you will have a good chance of getting your devices.

Also, my recommendation is to frequently change your passwords, and when you do change your passwords, make sure not to have any usage of your birthday or something related to it so that it's harder for someone to guess your password.

Internet Security for Travelers

With the whole world at your fingertips when you travel, new digital dangers emerge. One danger is cybercriminals at hotels and airports or who want to access your information as you enjoy a vacation, security expert Bruce Schneier said in an interview.

As people get more comfortable with using Smartphone Apps and travel websites, the danger increases. For example, when out and about you will probably want to use a mobile app to find restaurants or find your way to a hotel. But, do you know whether the app has access to all the information on your phone, including all your contacts? Also, are you aware of the risks when using public Wi-Fi connections, including hotel Wi-Fi?

What about email? Email related threats include fake emails from attackers. They insert malicious links in the email that give them access to your Passwords or email accounts. Another threat known as spear phishing is when an attacker goes after a specific person by sending emails that look like they come from someone you trust … that person may be you.

Finally, there is identity theft and privacy rights worldwide. If you are traveling internationally, you may not know how the technology works in that country.

On Your Own Device

Traveling with a laptop or other device that you don’t trust can be a world of stress and hassle. If you’re trying to protect your information and privacy, there are some very simple steps that you can take to keep yourself protected. Keep your computer secure with a strong password, create a secure, encrypted disk image to store your information, and keep an updated copy of your data with you on a USB drive.

Create a Secure Password

One way to reduce the chance of your data being recovered or intercepted is to ensure that it is encrypted. This way if your laptop is stolen or lost, the information on it is just a jumble of numbers and letters that can’t be read without the key to decrypt it. For extra security, encrypt your disk image as well.

A strong password is essential for protecting your data and protecting yourself against hackers. Passwords that use a combination of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters are harder to crack and harder for a thief or hacker to guess.

Store an Updated Backup of Your Data

If you’re traveling with a laptop, you should always keep a copy of your data on a separate drive, such as an encrypted disk image. If something happens to your laptop or your laptop is stolen, you can restore your data on a new or borrowed computer.

On a Public Computer

If you’re using a public or hotel computer, watch out … Here are some helpful tips to ensure that your data is protected.

Conclusion

With all of the information that is readily available on the internet, there are more opportunities for hackers to get your passwords and user information than ever before. Once you have stored your data on a website, it is essentially out of your hands. You are no longer the only one who has access to your data. That is why it is important to protect your information and keep your identity safe while you are traveling.

Sites that you visit and use can easily get hacked. These sites hold your personal information. Everything from credit card numbers to messages to your family and friends can be easily accessed by a hacker. It is important to protect your information while you are traveling. Sites that you visit often, those that you have visited in the past and those that you cannot remember visiting should be thoroughly checked to make sure that your information has not been compromised.

It is also crucial to check your credit card information. Check to see that your information has not been changed. This can happen quite often while you are on vacation. If you have not changed your address for a while or if your credit card number has not been changed, it is best to do so before you leave. This will protect your account and make it much more difficult for fraud to occur.

It is also important to protect your information while you are on a vacation. While you are on vacation, you should be aware of what you do online. Do not use public computers and instead use your own device.

Additional Resources