When travelling abroad with your mobile device, cyber criminals and foreign authorities may try to access your personal and corporate data. Good cyber hygiene can help mitigate the risks.
Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.
Since ancient times, wise individuals have extolled the virtues of seeing the world. Today, we travel more than ever, be it in search of opportunity or for recreation.
But while moving around the globe has seldom been smoother or safer, it also comes with risks.
And while mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets make it easy to stay in contact with family and business contacts while on the move, they also create potential entry-points for cyber criminals and others who operate in the places you visit.
To counteract the threats, good cyber hygiene is vital. Here are some best practices for your next trip.
Be wary of app downloads
Some countries encourage you to download certain apps when you arrive.
While these apps may serve a purpose – such as contact tracing during the pandemic – they sometimes also share information such as communication traffic and device location with local authorities.
Good cyber hygiene practice: Check the app’s settings in case you have control over what data you share. Alternatively, think twice about installing the app if it is optional.
Prepare to be monitored
When lining up at passport control after landing at an airport, getting your smartphone out often invites a rebuke from border guards.
Once you reach the desk, though, you might be ordered to hand your device over to officials.
In some countries, this temporary confiscation is so that monitoring software can be installed. Refusal to comply may result in a quicker-than-anticipated flight home.
Good cyber hygiene practice: Before you travel, consider removing sensitive data from your device. During your stay in certain jurisdictions, be aware that your activity could be monitored.
Consider taking a temporary/disposable phoneSurveillance and data compromise are increasing realities when traveling abroad.
By the time you reach your destination, it may be too late to address the situation.
Good cyber hygiene practice: Consider buying a temporary phone rather than bringing the device you use daily. As a temporary device, it has minimal sensitive data stored; you may even discard it upon your return.
Encrypted messaging apps
Messaging services are deeply embedded into our everyday existence. We often assume them to be safe and confidential means of communication, even though they may not be.
Good cyber hygiene practice: Use an encrypted messaging app for sensitive communications. Encryption converts your messages to code which only the intended recipient can decipher.
Especially after a few hours offline during a journey, it’s always tempting to get back online at the first sign of a “public” or “open” wi-fi network. Beware, however!
Such unsecured networks are regularly exploited by malicious parties to gain access to devices connected to them.
Having gained access via a hotspot, wrongdoers may then upload malicious software (malware) to your device, which they use to steal your data. The activity of anyone logged into the network could also be tracked.Good cyber hygiene practice: Try to avoid using publicly available wi-fi networks, sometimes called hotspots. Public transport
Make it harder for prying eyes
Especially when traveling, we may never be sure that the internet connection we are using is secure.
For that reason, it is always recommended go online abroad using a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure anonymity.
A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your device and the internet, making it harder for third parties to monitor your activity.
Good cyber hygiene practice: Always use a VPN to connect your device abroad, and especially for those occasions when you feel you have to use a hotspot.
Taking preventative measures such as these and those listed below should help you defend against various cyber threats you may face when traveling and avoid unauthorized data access.
Proactive measures can protect your device
- Back up your data – creating duplicates of your data and storing it in a secure location means you can restore it if your device is compromised. Android and Apple operating systems both come with built-in backup tools.
- Update your software – updates frequently include security fixes to address vulnerabilities targeted by hackers.
- Enable encryption – encryption turns your mobile data into code, making it unreadable to malicious parties.
- Enable multifactor authentication (MFA) – MFA requires you to verify your identity in two ways before logging into an account, such as entering a password and a one-time code sent by text message.
Install anti-virus software – the most reputable providers have developed solutions designed for mobile devices.