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HARDWARE GUIDES

Keeping Your Data Safe While Traveling
By: Joe Eitel
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    2010-03-30

    Table of Contents:
  • Keeping Your Data Safe While Traveling
  • Public Computer Security
  • Stay Safe on Your Laptop
  • Smartphone Security

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    Keeping Your Data Safe While Traveling


    (Page 1 of 4 )

    When traveling domestically and abroad, people take a ridiculous amount of precautions: they pack for every type of weather under the sun; they carry cash, credit cards, and traveler’s checks; they compare every price on every conceivable thing; they’ve extensively researched their hotel, its surroundings, and local restaurants. Basically there isn’t a thing that they don’t think of ahead of time, but why then, do so many of us forget to take precautions with our digital data while traveling?

    It’s absolutely nuts that we don’t take more precautions with our data, financial or otherwise. Just think about it: the data that we send and receive from our homes and offices isn’t even completely safe, so if you add the public computers and unprotected wireless networks to the mix, it’s like asking for trouble. A digital wipeout experienced while on the road could be devastating, especially if someone snags your financial information or other personal data.

    Thankfully, there are a few ways to prevent this from happening, none of which are too troublesome or expensive. While wandering the world--or sitting around random airports during ridiculously long layovers--consider doing some of the things mentioned here in order to keep all of your personal data safe and sound.  

    Public Wi-Fi Security

    Obviously, using your own computer while on the road is much safer than dropping into an unfamiliar Internet café or utilizing the airport or hotel’s Internet connection, but any time you use public Wi-Fi, you’re taking a great risk. This is because any time you log onto the Internet using Wi-Fi, someone in the vicinity (with not-so-great intentions) could be monitoring the airwaves, which is a nice way of saying they’re reading the data you send and receive across the network.

    These days, this is fairly easy to do with free software readily available online that allows its users to not only view, but capture all Wi-Fi traffic in the area. There’s no way of knowing how often cybercriminals partake in this particular activity because let’s face it, who’s going to 'fess up to an illegal activity for the sake of providing accurate statistics? Even more troublesome, these same hackers can gain access to your PC by making their own computer look as if it’s a legitimate Wi-Fi hotspot.  

    So what can you do about all of this? Using a firewall is your best option when it comes to protecting yourself from this kind of activity while on the road. Not only are excellent firewalls now included on the most recent versions of Windows and Mac operating systems, but they’re also free of charge. Another thing you can do to stay safe is make sure that all of the important information you’re sending is encrypted. You can check this by looking for “https” in website addresses and by checking if the Wi-Fi network you’re using utilizes encryption. This type of information can usually be found by reading the website’s privacy policy. 

    If you have access to a virtual private network (VPN) through your employer, you have even more options, and this one in particular is the safest. Though you do run the risk of accruing extra data fees if you use your mobile device, you could easily get online by using a cellular card; this is called tethering over encrypted cellular connections.

    If that seems more complicated than you’d like, there’s an easier option for those who deal with confidential information regularly while on the road. It’s called a removable privacy screen, and it costs between $20 and $60 for laptops and between $5 and $15 for iPhones, Blackberries, and other smartphone devices. What this does is make it much harder for your neighbors on flights or in other public places to view your device’s screen.

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