In the first several quarters of 2021 alone, there has been a 17% increase in business data breaches compared to the entire year of 2020.
These breaches will leave your data exposed, which could lead to someone stealing your information and wreaking havoc while you’re abroad. So, I recommend learning to safeguard your data to mitigate its likelihood of falling into the wrong hands.
Throughout this guide, I’ll give you nine practical tips that you can use to protect yourself online while traveling or living abroad. Most of these methods don’t involve purchasing software. Instead, they inform you on ways to protect yourself with free tools and settings.
1. Never Access Sensitive Websites on Public WiFi
A virtual private network (VPN) will only do so much to protect you since it only encrypts your connection to the website’s. Moreover, many public WiFi providers don’t encrypt their WiFi, which means that hackers can intercept your information and steal it.
Because of this, ensure you never log into websites with sensitive information such as financial institutions. Instead, log into these only when you’re at home. For example, if you’re at a hotel, you should inquire whether they have an encrypted connection.
2. Always Use Two-factor Authentication
Other than creating a strong password, the best way to protect your online accounts is to use two-factor authentication when logging in. 2-factor authentication (2FA) is when you use an additional method to your password to log in to an online account.
Various 2FA methods include:
- Universal 2nd Factor (U2F): the most secure 2FA uses biometrics or a hardware key; however, it’s not widely accepted
- One-time password: an application—mobile or desktop—generates a randomized code for you to enter
- Email (least secure): receive an email with a code
- By text message: receive a text message with a code
While email and SMS are the least secure 2 Factor authentication methods, I recommend using them over not using anything. However, when using SMS 2FA, some websites may not allow you to use VoIP phone numbers.
3. Backup and Encrypt Your Data
One of the smartest safeguards you can do in general is to backup your data in multiple areas. I provide ways to backup your data and files in this guide.
To sum up the article, I recommend storing files on a couple of physical devices—e.g., an external hard drive and flash drive—and a cloud-based storage system like dropbox.
If you want to safeguard your information further, encrypt it. To encrypt your cloud storage data, use free software like Cryptomator.
Emails are a bit tricky to encrypt. I’ve read that using OpenPGP helps you encrypt your emails; however, I don’t have enough room in this article to give a tutorial on how to use it.
With messenger applications, look for encryption features. For example, if you’re using the LINE app, use Letter Sealing to encrypt your messages. Or, you can use Telegram and WhatsApp for encrypted messages.
You can use a solution like VeraCrypt on Windows operating systems (OS) for files that you’ll store on your devices. With macOS, you can use the pre-installed Disk Utility app. And smartphone operating systems, you can use mobile applications like Crypt4All.
To encrypt your internet connection, use a VPN.
4. Keep Your Software Updated: This Is Essential
Companies provide continual software updates for a reason. While they’re annoying and often provide useless features and take space, they also address security issues related to their product.
Either set up your devices to automatically update your software and applications or ensure you manually check your software daily.
5. Be Smart About How You Store Your Passwords
For the love of all that’s holy, don’t write your passwords on paper or computer files. If you write it on paper, you could easily lose all your passwords in a fire, flood, or other natural disasters. Also, it enables a thief a convenient way to steal your information and have access to all of your accounts.
Instead, use a free password manager like Bitwarden. It’s open-source and secure. Moreover, you can use 2FA to safeguard your account and prevent hackers from getting into it. I don’t recommend paying for a password manager because the added features usually aren’t worth it.
However, if you use Bitwarden, I recommend paying the $10 a year to support their platform and get access to U2F logins.
6. Use the Right Software To Protect Your Data
So, you can use applications to generate passwords, email Alias software, virtual credit card generators, and your data. That way, if a hacker ever attacks the website, they won’t be able to get your personal information.
For free password generating software where you can use any password manager. As for email alias software, I recommend using SimpleLogin or AnonAddy—both offer free and premium plans.
This software will provide an alias email, which you can use to forward an email to your primary email address. However, whenever you don’t want to receive emails from a particular website anymore, you can block that website. Moreover, they won’t have your email, which they could sell to a marketing team.
Should protect your debit card when making purchases online, you can use the software called Privacy.com to create burner debit cards. It has a free and paid plan. So when using Privacy, you attach a debit card to the website.
Afterward, you can generate one-time use or multiple-use virtual debit cards that you can use on most websites. That way, you don’t have to expose your actual debit card number.
7. Use Strong Passwords: Make Hackers Have to Work To Get Your Data
You need to protect your computer security while traveling and here’s why.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), it’s best to focus on producing passwords that have a longer length than being more complex. Another part of what they recommend is using passwords up to 64 characters long.
If this sounds daunting, you can always use paraphrases of familiar words. Or, you can think of a sentence that only you will know. Otherwise, you can use a password manager to generate a complex password and store it. From there, the password manager will handle all of the password entries.
8. Use Common Sense on Social Media
Don’t tell everyone where you’re going and when you’re leaving. Also, don’t let your fans, family, and friends know where you’re staying until you leave. Otherwise, you’re shouting to the world for someone to stalk you.
Only tell your close family where you’re going through a private messenger, texting, or video chat. The world doesn’t need to know.
9. Ignore Suspicious Emails
Emails don’t stop flowing into your inbox while traveling. So, if you’re the type of person to check your emails while abroad, make sure that you’re careful as you would be while at home.
First off, if you receive emails about transactions that you know you haven’t made, check your bank or credit card transactions first. If you don’t have transactions meeting the said amounts, don’t reply to the email sender, even if they appear as a professional company.
Moreover, remember that the IRS never sends emails.
Your Data’s Valuable: Protect Yourself Online While Traveling
Most of what you’ll need to do to protect your data involves using common sense, adjusting settings to your accounts, and downloading some programs. Keep yourself up to date with scams and always backup your data.