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Authored by Thomas Ujj

To help quench the endless thirst of an eternal globetrotter, travelers everywhere have been enjoying the gift that keeps giving: technology. No matter where you go in today’s world, there is going to be a digital camera, offline map app, or even a camera flashlight that will accompany you and make your trips just a little bit more comfortable.

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.

Thankfully, there are several helpful hints and services that will help you stay clear of trouble. Let’s take a look at the three best ways to protect your data while on the road.

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Use Passwords!

Passwords are there for a reason. Any modern phone, tablet, or laptop has some sort of password or short passcode protection. While it may sound somewhat basic, it really is the first fundamental step in protecting your devices.

Also, if you already going to take the initiative and have some sort of password on your devices, please take the extra time to create a fairly complex one.

Typically, passwords that are all too common such as a 1111, 0000 or “first+last name, prove to be much easier to exploit. Use some combination of numbers, symbols and letters (upper and lower case) in order to better protect yourself.

Backup Data and Update Software!

Sure, that daily antivirus update notification is pretty annoying, but it is also pretty important to your laptop’s well-being. With new threats emerging daily, keeping an up-to-date antivirus will help your computer in the battle against external threats.

Another simple solution that tends to be overlooked is creating a backup of your device, thus ensuring that valuable data is not permanently lost or compromised.

This is a slightly more technical aspect of data security, but doing a little research will help you to find the best backup/storage plan for your devices.

Beware of the “Open WiFi Network”

Let’s face the truth, we have all been at the point where we were at a point of desperation, connected to an open and unprotected WiFi network in order to access the internet. What you may be unaware of is that you are unknowingly consenting to your internet traffic (including passwords) being open for viewing over a public network.

What is increasingly worrisome is how clever and dangerous “fake hot-spots” have developed into. Designed to fool the connecting user into thinking they are accessing a free WiFi network at a high-traffic area (airports, hotels, restaurants) they siphon off personal data and sell it to identity thieves on the digital black market.

When out in the open at a public place, take the extra moment to ensure that you are connecting to a network that requires a password, the more private the better.

A Bonus Tip:

A very efficient way to safeguard your laptop and devices while connecting to WiFi networks abroad is to invest in a VPN service, which will encrypt your data as you access the internet to protect you from eavesdroppers and other threats.

VPNs operate like a tunnel, where your information can only be seen between you and the other side of the connection. VPN’s also have a nice added bonus where you can access location-restricted content, i.e Netflix, from anywhere in the globe.

Relatively cheap (around 5-10$ a month) and easy to use, a VPN is well worth the investment if you are looking to spend any time overseas. To find more information on and how to buy one, check out BestVPN.com. Keep in mind if you’re traveling to a country like China, you’ll need a VPN which is specifically known to work against the government firewall.

Protecting Your Data While Traveling Abroad

While it is important to protect your belongings (wallet, clothes, etc) while traveling, we are advancing further into a digital age where more and more devices are necessary. As the common pickpocket and con artist has evolved into a modern day digital predator, travelers should be increasingly safeguarding their devices and the data on them.

These devices and their security need to find their way to the same mental checklist that any traveler has before their departure.

Following the above 3 simple tips will help ensure that not only will your data will be safe, but also give you the feeling of peace of mind that is oh-so regularly absent from travel plans.

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About the Author: Thomas Ujj is an expat/traveler and IT enthusiast with a passion for security and privacy. When he isn’t planning his next trip, he likes to take time to practice his Italian cooking as well as religiously watching Italian football team AS Roma.

Unfortunately, cooking and watching football games doesn’t always equal paychecks, so he writes for SmartDNS.com as well.

    26 Comments

  1. Lots or really important information here, and I am pleased to say that we are on top of it. We never carry the device and the backup together and we are super careful about connections. Lucky for me to married to someone who seems to keep up with all of this.

    • Happy to hear that Rhonda :) It’s not something the majority of people think about a lot of the time, but with so much of our lives now tied to technology it’s really important to make sure we’re keeping our devices secure.

      Happy travels X

  2. I found this article most useful! For years, I have watched people sharing the crucial information for their security irresponsibly, and it includes potentially more aware about these things bloggers. While we are all aware we should keep looking at our belongings but we are so less careful about the virtual information! Which makes us easy targets to becoming victims of the virtual crimes! I am lucky cause in most cases I bring with me a security expert that happens to be my husband ;-)

    • Happy to hear you found the tips useful Agata – sad to hear it’s even bloggers who don’t pay attention to security risks of sharing information irresponsibly – especially when it’s part of your everyday work you really need to be so aware.

      That’s a great comparison to draw between the way we treat our physical belongings v virtual information – problem being our virtual information is now so tied to every aspect of our lives, so if that goes down, you could be well and truly crippled.

      Glad to hear you and your husband are all over it though :)

  3. Hey Megan! Thanks for pointing out the dangers here. I’ll be embarking on a huge trip come late December (kind of an extended digital-working holiday) and I’ gonna need all the useful info about tech I can get!

    • Happy we could help Josh! Have a wonderful trip in December; extended digital-working holiday sounds like a blast!

      Happy travels :)

  4. Great tips Megan! They are definitely all things that travellers need to keep in mind. I am a huge advocate for backing up both your computer as a whole and the media you capture while travelling. I have two solutions: a cloud backup (which often doesn’t run fully while travelling due to bad connections) and two duplicate hard drives that live in different locations in my luggage (with the hope that if one bag disappears, I’ll still have the other one). It definitely helps keep my stress levels down about an accident (or theft) happening and losing the photos & video from my entire trip!

    • Thanks Kristin! Two duplicate harddrives are a fantastic idea – I recently dropped my main harddrive and the whole thing corrupted. Luckily I had left a full back up in Australia with my parents, so I could access everything after I returned home, but otherwise i would have lost 10 years worth of photos, and that’s NOT a good feeling at all!!

      Very smart way to go! Thanks for the tips :)

  5. This is such a great idea for a post. But honestly, I’ve heard the open wifi network bit, and never really paid heed to it. Nothing has ever gone wrong. Maybe I’m being naive, but I just don’t know what someone would want to do with it, sitting at say a Starbucks or something?

    • Thanks Revati – Mainly the open network bit comes down to if someone decides they want to access your data while you’re there. And when for instance you’re logging into bank accounts online, that’s not the kind of information you want other people to have, especially if you have a decent balance for someone to get their hands on.

      My guess would be that the kind of people who would actually act on stealing your passwords and data would probably frequent public places like Starbucks where they know people go just to use the free WiFi. So you really do need to protect your data when using open networks in a public place.

  6. Interesting tips! I can’t imagine there are still people who don’t use passwords though. I discovered the importance of a back-up a few months ago, spent a few stressful hours :-)

    • Thankyou Els – people just don’t think. We protect our personal possessions and physical objects like crazy, yet when it comes to our computer data we don’t think to put up a wall.

      Hopefully we can spread as much awareness as possible to make people realize that protection of computer data is just as important as protecting your possessions in your home :)

  7. The author’s name sounded familiar, but I could not figure why. The credit explained it – SmartDNS. Yes, I’ve been reading their articles and found some good information there. Regarding the post itself, it was interesting to compare how we handle our digital security with the wisdom from another seasoned expat/traveler. Satisfyingly, perfect score :). Moreover, I want to add one more point about VPN. Inevitably, a long-term traveler will be accessing his/hers banking account online (checking statements, making payments, etc…). It differs from bank to bank (some do not care), but some banks get suspicious if you suddenly access your account from some far-away geographical location (based on an IP address) and may lock you out. Using a reputable VPN not only adds a layer of security but protects from having a headache of dealing with a financial institution trying to unlock your account.

    • Perfect Elena! That’s a fantastic tip about the VPN allowing you to shield your location so that your bank doesn’t lock you out. I’ve also found this to be really useful for accessing your emails too.

      Have been locked out of my email account while traveling far too many times, though I realized that the use of a VPN helps stop your logins from appearing suspicious.

      I feel like we really do need to start making digital security something that people talk about often because far too many people just don’t think about it or the security issues involved but we’re now living in an age where it can’t be ignored.

      So glad you enjoyed the post, and thankyou for the additional points about the VPN :)

  8. These are really simple tips that lots of travelers do forget to do. Glad you reminded us about them. I am quite guilty of using free wifi connection, glad you pointed out that here too.

    • I think we’re all guilty of using a free wifi connection at some point in time – biggest thing is being aware of the dangers involved, and sourcing something which is more secure even if that means jumping two restaurants down to a different cafe :)

  9. Good tips, it’s a little scary how easily data can be stolen. The VPNs are definitely a good idea, and more security means one less thing to worry about while on the go!

    • Thanks Mary! A lot of people don’t realize that VPN’s are not only used for streaming purposes, they are also becoming an essential first line protection for your data!

  10. This is an excellent read. People should be aware of the online security threats when they travel to abroad. By selecting the provider of VPN might be a little tricky. VPN Analysis helped me alot in making this decision.

    • Thanks for the tip Thomas :)

  11. Really good tips here. Actually, most of the people feeling rescue when they travel abroad. But you share a great post about it. I think people will be benefited,they will get the solution of this kind of problem.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  12. Awesome article, especially the part about using a VPN. We wrote an extensive guide vor digital nomads how to choose the right VPN and recommend it to everyone.

    Stay safe.

    • Thanks Alina & Deian :) My parents have just left on a two month RTW trip and we set them up with a VPN beforehand, so important nowadays to have :)

      Happy travels!

  13. Awesome tips Thomas. I think we all tend to get a little but careless when we travel and are not sure about the networks in foreign countries. It is so important to password
    protect everything and like you said be extra careful about open networks. Investing in a VPN service is a great tip and I shall look into that for sure.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Mike – I agree, I think it’s very easy to become cavalier about our internet and computer security especially when we’re traveling, but it really is important to protect as much as we can :)

      Happy travels!

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