Protecting yourself and your physical valuables while traveling is straightforward. However, protecting your digital data — your identity, social media details, and passwords — seems a little less so. Unfortunately, in our ever-connected world, the latter has become far more important. Nowhere are you more vulnerable than while visiting a foreign country. Here are five tips for protecting your virtual self while traveling abroad.
Pack an RFID-blocking Wallet
This is one of the most straightforward defenses against identity theft while traveling. Many new passports, credit cards, and driver’s licenses rely on embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that readily emit your sensitive electronic data. Savvy thieves can use RFID “skimmers” to sniff out this data, capture it, and use it for nefarious purposes like impersonating you at the border of some foreign country. RFID-blocking wallets work to — wait for it — block those transmissions. For a streamlined solution, the Nite Ize RFID Blocking Tactical Wallet is an affordable bet. For a more substantial alternative that can also hold your passport and boarding passes, the Obstructures Aluminum Passport Wallet will do the trick.
Invest in a Good Travel Router
This isn’t as technical or geeky as it sounds. At home, most anyone with an internet connection uses a router to get online. This physical device serves as a secure intermediary between your connected devices and the outside world. The problem is, that same security doesn’t exist when you’re traveling and connecting to public networks at hotels, airports, and coffee shops. The fix is to invest in a good portable travel router. Devices like Keezel or TP-Link’s AC750 Travel Router are great, affordable solutions that set up in minutes. Most are one-button devices to which you simply connect all your personal devices, then pair the router with any new public network you wish to use while traveling. The process takes less than 30 seconds and your internet surfing will be just as safe abroad as it is at home.
Turn on “Find My Phone”
Nothing is as potentially catastrophic to your identity as losing your phone. Many users are unaware of the “Find My Phone” feature. For those who are, they often assume it’s turned on by default for every new phone. In most cases, however, it must be manually enabled. For both Android and iOS users, this can be done in the phone’s list of Settings. For Apple users, the feature will send the phone’s location to iCloud whenever the battery is critically low. Android users who’ve activated the feature can test and confirm it’s working by visiting Google’s Find My Device page. Plus, if it becomes clear you’re not getting your phone back, you can remotely wipe the memory from any web browser.
Customize Your Lock Screen
The lock screens for almost every smartphone can be customized not only with fancy wallpaper and animations but a few lines of text as well. Add a contact email or phone number to your phone’s screen so that anyone who finds it knows how to reach you. You’re gambling, of course, that the person who finds your phone won’t use that additional piece of information against you, but we like to think most people are reasonably honest, right?
Shield Your Web Browsing with a Privacy Screen
Modern web browsers offer plenty of ways to shield your private data, like starring out passwords as you type. But diligent criminals can still surf online sessions over your shoulder to glean your login information. Take your protection one step further with a simple privacy screen. If you’re going to buy a screen protector for your phone or tablet anyway (and you should), opt for one with privacy tinting. This unique film ensures that your phone’s screen is only visible to those looking directly at it. Anyone to the side of you — say, a stranger on an airplane — will see nothing but black.
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