Working while traveling – for many people this is the dream; to set up an online business and freelance as you’re traveling the globe. And in our increasingly tech savvy world, there are even more opportunities for freelancers than ever before.
But, traveling the world as you’re working from your laptop presents a unique set of risks, and one of the biggest considerations is how to protect yourself from data theft.
Unfortunately, as technology has evolved, so also has the common criminal. In an age where identity theft is an all too regular occurrence, devices and user data should be protected from prying malicious attacks at all costs.
Open Wifi networks and malicious software await travelers at every step of their journey, so using devices while on the road should undoubtedly require the same level of care as a wallet or passport.
If you’re a digital nomad who freelances and runs your business while jumping from one country to the next, the following are tips for how to keep your data safe while you’re abroad.
How to Keep Your Data Safe as a Freelancer Working Abroad
Use Your Own Devices
The first step to keeping your data safe is to only use your own devices. As tempting as it is to log onto a public computer at a hotel or co-working space, or borrow someone’s phone, in doing so you’re leaving a copy of your data on a device that can be accessed by the next person to use it.
Even if you’re cautious about using incognito windows, and triple checking that you’ve logged out, devices these days automatically store passwords – all that needs to happen is for you to be distracted enough to hit the wrong box.
Or maybe you X the screen without properly logging out once you’re finished, leaving your business accounts open to the next person who decides to log on. From emails, to banking, and access to your website back end, your business data is sensitive.
Don’t risk your business data by logging in from strange, foreign devices. Only use devices that you personally own, and can therefore password protect, and trust.
Use Strong Passwords
About a third of the world’s tech users don’t use a password to protect their devices. Which is a big mistake. Password protection is security 101, and the first line of defense to protect your data if your tech is lost or stolen.
Most modern phones and laptops these days now even have biometric identification like a fingerprint swipe, which makes it even tougher for other people to get in.
Not only does this protect your data from crimes like identity theft, it also means you have a higher chance of finding or recovering the device after it’s lost or stolen. If someone grabs your tech and realizes they can’t use it, they’re likely to discard it and try again for an easier target.
Make sure passwords you use are unusual, by using a combination of letters, numbers and / or special characters. A strong password is considered to be 8 characters or more. Use acronyms for things instead of full words, and change your password frequently – at least once every 6 months.
Only Connect Through Secure Hotspots
Let’s face it, we’ve all been at the point where we’re so desperate to meet a deadline that we’ve connected to an open and unprotected WiFi network in order to access the internet. And especially these days, free internet is something we’ve come to expect.
But it’s so important to avoid public, unsecured hotspots as these make us incredibly vulnerable to cyber security threats.
Whether we’re trying to work at the airport, hotel, or a café, public WiFi networks tempt us at every step of the way, and we often don’t hesitate when connecting. But most of these public networks are open networks, which aren’t safe, and allow anyone using them to access your information.
All of your internet activity passes through your ISP servers and anyone using the same network (which could be thousands of people if you’re connected at a hotel, café, or airport) can easily see your data: usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, business spreadsheets.
Criminals have even been known to set up WiFi hotspots specifically to trick people into connecting. To avoid this data threat, make sure you only ever connect to a secure network when you’re working (one that requires a password to access), or use a VPN.
Insure Your Data / Business
Most digital nomads will have taken out annual travel insurance which protects their devices and tech, after-all, it’s not uncommon that electronics get lost, stolen, or damaged in the hustle and bustle that travel brings.
But as a freelancer who relies on your online business for your continued income, it’s equally as important to insure your data, and insure your business.
Even if you’re operating as a sole trader selling photographs, or you’re running a blog by yourself to generate your income, you should strongly consider small business general liability insurance, which covers basic risks that could affect any business.
You’re insuring yourself against loss of income should anything happen to your devices or you somehow lose your data, in case you fall victim to a breach of privacy lawsuit should you post pictures of unauthorized places, or copyright lawsuits if you’ve used an image without the correct permissions.
Simply put, general liability insurance means that it covers the basic risks that affect almost every business, no matter what your industry.
Back Up EVERYTHING
Travel doesn’t always go to plan, and it’s not uncommon for digital nomads who move around a lot to lose, damage, or have devices stolen. But, if this does occur, having a back up of your data means you don’t lose that too.
While a back-up can’t protect the functionality or condition of your tech, most of the time it’s what we have on them that is the most valuable to us. Your business plans, strategies, contacts, and correspondence is usually far more valuable than the device which holds it.
Regularly back-up your data so that in the case of an accident, you can still retrieve your files, and run your business from the documents you have saved. These backups can be stored on cloud platforms or physical devices like an external hard drive or USB.
While backing everything up on the cloud can be a great idea for travelers who move around a lot, meaning you can pick up from where you left off across multiple devices, we also recommend traveling with a general backup on a physical USB.
Remember that when traveling you won’t always have access to a WiFi connection, so if you find yourself disconnected and your documents are all backed up on the cloud, a USB can come in very handy.