Travelers are an attractive target for cyber attacks. The nomadic nature of travel coupled with the constant need to stay connected (and charged) means that travelers use and rely on multiple untrusted networks during their trips. These networks cannot (and should not) be trusted, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t be used.
With proper cyber hygiene, travelers can improve the security of their electronic devices while traveling and reduce the risk of becoming infected. Want to avoid getting hacked on your trip? Use our 3 must-know computer security tips for travelers and stay safer on the road.
Computer Security Tips for Travelers
Here are 3 important cybersecurity tips that apply to travelers. Perhaps you travel for work or maybe you are a digital nomad who lives on the road, or maybe just someone on vacation. Whatever your reason for traveling here are 3 smart computer security steps to always take when traveling.
- Always use a VPN
- Always use a screen protector
- Always keep your firewall enabled
Before we dig into our 3 must-know computer security tips for travelers let’s examine a few basics that all travelers should be doing. We refer to these as the “duhs” of computer security. As in, “duh!!” you should be doing them no matter what.
The Basics – we assume you are doing these
Here are some basics that all travelers (strike that, all people, in general!) should be doing all the time, no questions asked:
- Use and update antivirus software
- Regularly patch their devices with the latest security updates
These are the “duhs” of computer security and everyone should be doing these, no questions asked. We assume travelers are doing them, too, but a friendly reminder can’t hurt.
Computer Security Travel Tip #1: Always use a VPN
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, securely connects your computer to another network that is secure (or more secure, anyway). Instead of accessing the Internet from your local hotel’s WiFi network or the airport you are sitting in you establish a VPN tunnel over that WiFi connection to a more secure network. Your traffic then traverses inside of that secure tunnel to the remote secure network and out to the Internet.
Using a VPN when traveling offers several benefits including:
- Enhanced Privacy. No one can snoop your traffic and see what you are browsing.
- Improved Security. Anything you are doing inside the VPN tunnel (e.g. banking or company email, etc) will not be suspect to any local cyberattacks because it’s as if your computer is actually sitting on the more remote secure network, not the less security hotel WiFi.
- Ability to circumvent local censorship/internet blockers. Always consult local laws here so you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Travelers can purchase a personal VPN fairly easily. For example, NordVPN (insert affiliate link) offers a reasonably priced VPN solution specifically designed for travelers. If you travel for work, your company is likely providing a VPN solution for you…so you use it!
Computer Security Travel Tip #2: Always use a screen protector
Prying eyes want to see your screen. Maybe it’s innocent glances to see what movie you are watching or it’s something more nefarious like the shady fella in the row behind you trying to scoop your credit card password.
Or worse, it could be a competitor trying to bird dog your sales presentation that you are putting the final touches on before you land in Wichita. Either way, investing in a screen protector is a savvy move and must-do computer security travel tip.
Computer Security Travel Tip #3: Always keep your firewall enabled
Let’s start first by having a firewall. Most computers these days come with firewall software or the antivirus package you use will include a firewall. Make sure you enable it.
It can be convenient to turn them off to make internet browsing easier but fight this urge. Keep them enabled. This is especially true when traveling. While on the road you will be using multiple WiFi connections. Maybe it’s the Hilton Garden Inn in Spokane where from the comfort of your hotel bed you are video chatting with your kids. Or maybe it’s at 30,000 feet using the Southwest WiFi service.
No matter where you are, keep that firewall enabled.
Bonus Computer Security Travel Tips
In addition to the computer security travel tips we’ve shared so far, there’s a few more worth noting.
Be Wary of Public WiFi when traveling
Wireless Internet access is more common than ever and free WiFi is almost nascent at airports, hotels and coffee shops. But, does that mean you should use it willy nilly every time? Yeah, probably not.
Always best to be cautious when using public WiFi. Be sure it’s actually from the location you intend it to be and not a hacker surreptitiously offering free wireless access as a means to
Juice Jacking – be vigilant
Juice jacking is a newish type of cyber threat that is potentially more likely to target travelers. According to Wikipedia, this attack involves “… a charging port that doubles as a data connection, typically over USB. This often involves either installing malware or surreptitiously copying sensitive data from a smartphone, tablet, or another computer device.”
In other words, that USB port you are plugging your phone into to get a few minutes of charging in could be a means to infect your phone with malware or to steal data.
To protect against this attack vector, bring a portable charger with you at all times and use it. This has the added benefit of not needing to compete for charging location at the airport (which can sometimes be hard to find!)
These days, there’s more bad in the world than good, or it certainly seems that way. Cyber attacks are a real threat to travelers who are often exposed while in transit or at hotels. Use the methods described here to improve your computer security while traveling and start traveling a little safer.
Bio: Jeremy is a frequent business traveler who spends more nights in hotel beds than he does his own bed. His business travel blog, the CBoardingGroup.com highlights the daily grind of the work traveler with business travel tips & hacks, humor, and travel gear reviews. Business travel has taken him all over the globe…on the company dime, of course…and he can’t complain one bit (although he still does).