The 10 Best Tips for Protecting Your Personal Information While Traveling
Summary: If you’re planning to take your devices with you when you travel, you’ll want to stay as secure as possible. Check out our easy cybersecurity travel tips for keeping your devices — and data — private.
So, you’re finally going on that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. Your bags are packed. Flight tickets purchased. Hotels booked. You’ve got everything you need covered.
But have you thought about how to keep your data safe while traveling? Chances are that wherever you’re headed, you’ll be using the internet to help get you there – and to help find your way around once you’ve arrived.
Of course, you’ll want to have access to high-speed internet during your vacation, but it’s also important to stay secure while using it. Exercising personal information safety is the best practice, whether you’re at home or abroad.
Wondering what can you do to protect your personal information and data while traveling? Implementing good practices to maintain cybersecurity while traveling doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 10 ways to protect your mobile devices and personal information while traveling internationally and domestically.
Enable Find My Device Features
Using a physical device means there’s the possibility it could be stolen — or simply lost. But other than keeping your gadgets on your person, here’s a great trick. Most smartphones and some laptops have a feature called something like “Find My Device.”
The catch is, this must be enabled before the device is lost. It can’t be turned on remotely. If your device is lost and has this feature turned on, you’ll be able to sign into your account on a different device and find out where the device is or it’s last known location.
From here, you can play a sound, lock your phone (or put a display message stating how to get in touch with you to return the device), or erase the device.
If you choose to erase the device, tread lightly. Find My Device will no longer work, and all your data will be permanently deleted. So, if you don’t have automatic data backup, you won’t be able to get that information back.
Of course, when in doubt, leave your devices at home or in your hotel room safe.
Turn off Bluetooth
While Bluetooth is great for connecting to devices in your home or even wearable tech, it can be a risk when you’re traveling. If your Bluetooth is active, hackers can see the networks you’ve connected to in the past, copy them, and trick your device into connecting. From there, they can either steal your data, spy on you, or put malware and viruses onto your device.
Avoid using Bluetooth at all, if possible, but if you do need it, turn it off when it’s not in use and consider periodically wiping your history.
Avoid Public WiFi
We get it: public WiFi is super convenient when you’re in line waiting for your order or working remotely from a new location. It lets you connect to whatever you want without asking someone for a password or burning through your phone’s hotspot. But the ease that public WiFi offers is precisely what makes it so risky. Because public WiFi networks are unencrypted, it’s easy for anyone else on that network to see your information while connected.
The best practice is to avoid public WiFi altogether. But if you really do need to use it, here are a few tips:
- Only use “https” sites (the “s” stands for secure, so these sites protect your information better than http sites)
- Avoid accessing any sensitive data, like your bank account or medical records
- Avoid online shopping or entering your payment information on a site
- Be sure to fully disconnect from the network when you’re done using it
- Use a VPN
Download a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, is one of the best ways to ensure your information stays private. We even recommend using a VPN at home! VPNs encrypt your internet protocol (IP) address and establish a secure connection with their own network server so that your internet provider — or any potential cybercriminals — can’t see your final destination or any of the information you enter on those pages.
VPNs can make an unsecured network, like public WiFi, much more secure. But it also helps keep your life more private when you’re home. Is a VPN worth it? We sure like to think so!
Traveling for business? Let’s say you’re traveling with your work laptop. Keeping your data and your company’s data safe should be top of mind – that means using a VPN anytime you connect to the internet. Ask any savvy business person – this is the best way to keep your work laptop safe while traveling.
Some companies may offer a VPN for free. But we recommend finding one that’s bundled together with a complete cyber safety suite.
Bring Your Own Charger
Just like public WiFi, public charging stations are enticing for their convenience. But sometimes these widely available USB ports and charging hubs are Trojan horses, allowing hackers to go straight to the source and get into your device. With just one charge, cyber criminals can glean information from you, install malware or viruses, or even launch ransomware on your device.
Charge smart. Bring a charging bank or find a power outlet and plug in your regular cord charger.
Invest in a Cyber Safety Package
Think of all the important personal information you access online: medical files, credit scores, bank statements, and more. Choosing a cyber security solution that works across multiple devices and offers identity theft protection and reimbursement, a secure password keychain, and a VPN can make staying safer online as easy as possible.
We recommend Protect+ powered by Norton. It has the features you need, licenses for multiple devices (think: phone and tablets in addition to your laptop or computer), and a million-dollar protection program — a real one-stop-shop solution.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
We know how easy it is to click “remind me later” when prompted to do a software or security update on any of your devices. But these updates strengthen security measures, patch weak points, and keep your information all-around safer.
Plus: the older your software is, the more time hackers have to find the weak points. So, if you have an outdated operating system and the people around you are up to date, you’re an easier target. Do yourself a favor and turn on automatic updates.
Store Passwords on a Secure Mobile App
With all the accounts, websites, and platforms on the internet today, it’s easy to lose track of your passwords. How you store passwords when traveling is vital.
If you have a notebook or written passwords at home, don’t add them to your luggage. Instead, download a secure password manager app before you leave. There are many options for free or with free trials.
Save all your current and active passwords in the manager (don’t forget your usernames). When you need to retrieve a password or login, follow the other cybersecurity tips above to make sure your connection is secure and login to the password manager. Remember to create strong passwords.
Create a New Email Address for Traveling
Think about how often you use your personal email address – for social media accounts, shopping, important documents, etc. That’s endless sensitive information on your personal habits that could be vulnerable to bad actors.
Before you hand out your personal email address or start booking reservations, consider creating a new email account exclusively for your travel needs. Not only will you have an extra layer of protection, but you’ll also have the ease of finding all your reservations, bookings and travel communications in one place.
Use a Secure Messaging App with Encryption
If you’re traveling internationally, it’s possible you’ll have limited cell service, or face a hefty phone bill upon your return. While you can call your mobile provider to inquire about their international phone plans, it may be easier and cheaper to download a secure messaging app to use while traveling. In addition to protecting your messages, you’ll be able to keep your phone number private from scammers and hackers.
Now is a great time to ensure you have a plan to protect your data and privacy both before and during your trip, especially since airlines, hotels, and other travel-related companies have had data breaches in the past.
If you’re trying to get away, follow these seven tips to stay safer online while traveling. And if you’re looking for even more, we’ve got the top 15 tricks to keep your entire family safer online — wherever they roam. At EarthLink, we’re committed to your privacy. That’s why we’ve partnered with the best in the business to offer security plans that pair perfectly with our no credit checks, no data caps fiber internet.