5 FREE Ways to Protect Your Data While traveling
Protecting your personal data from hackers is difficult to do. We certainly can tighten up our online behaviors to make it more difficult for hackers, but there is no guarantee that we can protect ourselves online, 100% of the time. In fact, most of us know it is a matter of time before a credit is swiped and that it may happen up to once per year! Here are a few tips that you can do, absolutely free, to make it more challenging for hackers to get into your personal data.
Do Not Connect to Public WiFi
To avoid using their data plans, wireless users are quick to connect to public WiFi to save money. We are in a hurry to reconnect with work emails, post on social media, and update family via messaging. But public WiFi, or hotspots, are an easy door in for hackers. It does not matter if the hotspot has a password or not. It is still an open connection that is shared with whoever wants access to it. Your friendly neighborhood hacker can afford a cappuccino and ask nicely for the password too!
Use a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN for short, is a way to connect securely to the internet. A VPN app like TunnelBear or VPNhub can be downloaded to your smartphone. If you need to use a public WiFi connection like at a coffee shop or hotel, then a VPN helps secure your connections. Both TunnelBear and VPNhub are available for FREE.
VPNs have another use as well. They are used to tunnel to a secure connection from another location. A full-featured VPN like IPVanish allows you to choose where you want your internet connection to originate from. Apps like this one are used to spoof the user’s IP address. This is useful for accessing content from within a country that bans certain websites – the way China bans Facebook for example. IPVanish is not free but it is reasonable. I pay quarterly for it
Use an RFID Blocking Wallet
Have you read my post about how the credit card in my friend’s wallet on the Las Vegas strip was used to buy goods in another city and then again in another state? That’s hacked RFID technology at work. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) are tracking devices that are used to track inventory throughout a retail store or warehouse. They are also used in credit cards. With some cheap hardware, hackers can grab your credit card information. They then use your credit card number to place charges online, until you or your bank wizens up and shuts the numbers down. But that could be a matter of days, weeks, or until you notice the erroneous charges.
Place your credit and bank cards in an RFID blocking wallet. Better yet, leave them home! Also, set up SMS messaging so you know when a charge is made to your account. I have mine set to text me whenever there is a charge for more than $1. This way I see everything to that is charged.
Don’t Leave Laptops With Hotel Bellhops
I know, I now. You just schlepped from the airport and you can’t wait to dump your bags at the hotel until your room is ready. Also true, that most hotel employees are perfectly honest and would never touch your electronics. But why take the risk, especially when the data on your laptop is important work-related information? Bring a small laptop sleeve or collapsible carrying bag and take your laptop with you if you absolutely must leave your bags with the hotel bell hop! Why take the risk?
Don’t Use Public Charging Stations
Have you heard the saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch?” Well that is sometimes the case with so-called free phone charging stations. Big charging kiosks are most frequently seen at airports or large conventions. You may also find them at grocery stores, shopping malls, and restaurants. These stations charge smartphones for free or a small fee. Many charging station owners track the phones that are plugged into the kiosk. Although some of this is research to understand usage patterns, much of it is invasive when the kiosks track your specific device ID.