Earlier this year, American border control agents started demanding that travellers to the United States hand over their digital devices. Since US border control have the right to look through anything that you have on your person when you arrive in the country, this was considered to be fair practice. Taking it one step further, border control agents also started demanding access to social media accounts by insisting that passengers hand over their passwords. It sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel, but this is the reality of the world we live in today.
These aren’t the only threats that we face as digital consumers. Data and personal information is becoming more and more valuable to criminals. Hence the rise of personal data hacks and identity theft. With just a few pieces of personal information, a hacker can very easily apply for credit cards in your name or gain access to your existing banking information. As we’re becoming more and more reliant on mobile devices and insist on accessing sensitive information from anywhere with a mobile signal, we’re putting ourselves at risk with alarming frequency.
Millions of people travel all over the world every year, and most of them will be travelling with some kind of digital device. If you’re concerned about keeping your data safe while travelling, there are so many steps you can take to protect yourself, yet many people neglect to take the simplest of steps. Here are just some of the ways you can protect your data while travelling.
Encrypt your devices
If your device is ever stolen while you’re travelling, password protection won’t be much help once it’s in the hands of criminals. The only way to protect the data on your device is to encrypt the device so that it will be unreadable if it is lost or stolen. In 2012, an employee of a well-known organisation had their company laptop stolen with the details of 10,000 employees stored on it. The hard drive wasn’t encrypted, which meant a huge data breach for the organisation. If it can happen to NASA, it can happen to you!
Stop connecting to unknown WiFi
When you have an important email to send and your mobile signal is on the blink, it can be tempting to connect to the nearest open WiFi network just to get the job done. Connecting to unknown networks if a very dangerous act and can lead to criminals stealing the data on your device and gaining access to all of your sensitive information.
If you are visiting a coffee shop and want to access the WiFi network, you should always check with staff to confirm the correct network. Never assume that an open network named after the venue you are in is associated with the place, as this is an easy way for hackers to lure you into connecting to the network. Once you’ve found a network you are confident accessing, you should never use it to access anything important like online banking or sensitive emails. The risk is far too great and you can’t rely on public WiFi to protect your data.
Switch to the cloud
IT security is a huge issue for organisations all over the world, and one of the ways that computer experts recommend responding to this threat is with cloud accounts. Rather than storing information on a portable device which can easily be stolen, you store everything valuable in the cloud. Cloud accounts can be anything from Google Drive to Dropbox, or larger organisations might have their own bespoke cloud service. If your device is ever stolen, you simply revoke access to the cloud and you’ll never have to worry about your data going missing.
This is particularly useful if you are concerned about handing over sensitive company information to border control while travelling. A lot of companies will have strict rules about handling company data, and handing over login details to border control would represent a breach of your work contract. If everything is stored in the cloud, you can hand over the device with confidence because nothing will be stored on the actual device.
Change your passwords frequently
The problem that many of us have is that remembering passwords for every different platform can be difficult. For this reason, we tend to choose two or three passwords and then use them for everything. It’s important to regularly review your passwords and ensure you update them frequently, as a hacker could easily have access to your personal data for a long time without ever leaving a trace. If someone has access to your email account, they might be waiting for you to send bank details or other identifiable information. Although the advice has always been to include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special symbols into our passwords, it has recently been discovered that long combinations of words are much more effective.
In conclusion, there are steps we can all take to ensure our data is secure, from encryption to simply changing our passwords every now and then. With a bit of planning and a commitment to better security, we can all help to keep cybercriminals at bay. Often the simplest solutions are the most effective and all we need to do is simply be more aware of the world around us. When we’re travelling, it’s common for people to fall into a false sense of security and forget basic security steps that we would take at home without question.