Protecting your Tech While Traveling: An Easy Guide
Traveling is an exciting experience, but just because you're in a beautiful new locale doesn't mean you can get lazy about protecting yourself, your data, and your gadgets. Laptops, tablets and smartphones are cornerstones of the modern day digital survival kit that we can't do without, but that also makes them an attractive target for ‘bad guys'. From theft to hacking, there's plenty of risks, and the last thing you want to do is lose your contacts and lifeline to friends, let alone data and photos. Here's some helpful tips to ensure your tech stays safe while traveling.
While the specifics vary from device to device, most modern technology has some version of the ‘find my phone' service. It is also possible to get third party RFID tags that can be attached to your most expensive gear and gadgets which can be tracked. While the jury is out among users as to whether you should have these services activated at all times, it's a smart idea to consider when you're on the go. If possible, use a service that would also allow you to remotely wipe your data and lock the device, so if it does go missing, you can at least preserve your data integrity and reduce the resulting risk.
Lock What You Can
Running a safe and secure password on the master device is a no brainer at this point in time. However, you should think outside the box on this form of protection, too. Make sure all sensitive apps- including workplace apps and logins to your remote servers- are locked down too, preferably with two-factor authentication enabled too. You can also use encryption software to ‘lock' hard drives and external media like SD cards. While the physical unit can still go missing, at least your data can't be accessed without the correct security key.
Um.. About that Device Password
Most of us, however, are guilty of not using password or biometric protection on our master devices either. Pick up your phone right now- do you just have a ‘swipe to access' setting enabled? While it can be more convenient than unlocking the phone or laptop wholly every time you sit in your apartment, if you're traveling, it's time to be a bit smarter. This should be your first-line defense in keeping your tech safe on the road.
While it's annoying to see those nag screens pop up about software updates, keeping your apps and software updated is a critical security measure. Most of these updates deliver security improvements, not quality-of-life changes, and this helps close back doors that hackers can manipulate. It is also a smart idea to delete apps you don't use, and to regularly check in on your permissions, as many apps collect a ton of data about us and our movements and we often forget why they even have those permissions.
Before you leave, and at regular points on the road, make sure you are backing up your contacts and data. While this won't prevent the device from being lost or stolen, it will save you a ton of heartache if the worst should come to pass.
Beware Public Wifi
Open wifi hotspots can be a godsend when traveling, but they are also one of the riskiest types of connection to use. While you may want to keep your roaming data fees to a minimum, it's common for hackers to use these open connections to intercept your sensitive data. If you will be using public wifi a lot, invest in a high-quality VPN with additional safety features that encrypts the transmitted data, ensuring it will be useless to thieves.
Disable Unneeded Connectivity
When traveling, don't leave your bluetooth on in public spaces, and consider closing your wifi when not actively using it, too. If you leave these always-on, you are issuing hackers an open invitation to connect to your device without your knowledge. On the plus side, closing them will also conserve your battery life when you may not have easy access to recharging points, so it's a win-win.
While not as devastating as losing your data or device, having it break on the road isn't great either. Especially your smartphone, which is your lifeline to convenience and to your home if there's trouble. So invest in technology that will help increase your device's physical robustness too- screen protectors, shockproof cases, proper bags to carry it, and so on.
Use Available Protection
You also need to pay attention to the physical safety of the devices. They're likely safest on you- but this will depend on your location and activity at the time. A smartphone may be discreet, but hauling a laptop case everywhere can put a target on your back unwittingly. Most hotels will offer a safe for you to store your valuables. Never assume that these are 100% safe- after all, most hotels will also have overrides for this and you have no control over who else could have access-but it drastically reduces the chances of theft, and will likely make insurance more likely to pay out if any does occur.
Even with all these tips in place, the very best thing you can do for the safety of your tech as you travel is stay aware. Learn to not flash valuables around like you're at home, keep your use of gadgets and expensive technology discrete, know where you can go safely and when to stay in a group, and don't fall for ‘help' carrying your possessions at transit points. Staying aware of your surroundings, and learning to travel with your valuables on the ‘down low' is one of the smartest travel habits there is. If you're not easily picked out as a tourist, you will be less of an appealing target, too.
Remember that you may be traveling for fun or leisure, but that doesn't mean the thieves and hackers at your destination are on holiday too! With these simple precautions, however, you can keep your tech safe as you travel and have a great time too.