You’ve achieved the dream! You’re a digital nomad, traveling around the globe travel blogging and getting paid for it. Fantastic!
Instead, maybe you are just starting out. You’ve set up your travel blog and gone through all the steps of choosing and registering your domain name, choosing and host, and designing and setting up the website where your posts will live. You’ve even put a few up there and you’re getting good feedback and other opportunities.
Then the unthinkable happens. You log on in the hostel common room, and what do you find? Your blog has been hacked, the content is gone, and your PayPal account is now empty. What happened?
There are a number of security risks that come with travel blogging, and you need to know before you go, plan to protect yourself, and be prepared for whatever might happen. Does that mean you will be unhackable? Hardly. There really is no such thing, but you can take security measures to make sure your data is as safe as possible.
Stay Away from Public Computers
Internet cafes are pretty much a think of the past, but there are places in Europe and elsewhere where they still exist. The thing is, these public computers are pretty easy to hack, as illustrated by movies like Bourne identity. In real life, it is easy for a hacker to set up these computers to steal your data, so you need to be careful. Here are some common problems.
- Updates, What Updates? Most of the time the cafe owners rarely bother with security updates and neither do customers. These computers are usually open to viruses, malware, and hacks.
- Speaking of malware and viruses, these computers are often filled with whatever software has been downloaded by customers over the years. You never know what programs are there, and how they are accessing your data.
- Keyloggers are common. These are programs that log every keystroke you enter, and pass it along to someone else. Usually, it is then fed into a program that detects banking sites, passwords, PINs, and any other personal information you may have entered. This data is often sold to the highest bidder.
If you have to use a public computer, carry a thumb drive or portable hard drive with you that has the programs you will need on it in app form. When you are on a computer you can trust, rescan your portable drive for viruses too.
Some internet cafes are now aware of these issues, and cycle computers on and off and clean them nightly. If nothing else, find an Apple store and use their computers for a moment. When you are done with what you need to do, restart the computer, and that will wipe all of your information. You might not be able to do everything on these computers in the store, but if you ask an employee, they may have a workaround for you that will enable you to do what you need to in a relatively secure environment.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi When Possible
Nearly as bad as public computers is public wifi. With the right software and a simple computer, a hacker can steal your data on an open public network with ease. Even if you need a password to log on, it isn’t much better. The one at the coffee shop is written on the chalkboard or placard by the register, and everyone in the hotel is on the same network even if you are given a unique password for your room to log on. How many other people have that same access, and when was the last time any of those passwords were changed?
Use HTTPS networks for data encryption. Use a plugin like HTTPS Everywhere to keep your browsing secure when you have to access public wifi. Make sure a padlock appears next to the web address, and don’t do anything financial on those networks like accessing bank accounts or PayPal. You don’t have to see someone for them to be on the network. They could be in the coffee shop parking lot sitting in their car.
Use a VPN
Virtual Private Network or VPN software allows you to choose any location or server somewhere else in the world and browse from there. If you are public wi-fi, this is a great method of protection, and many employers will have specific VPNs you need to log into if you are using a company computer. There are several free VPN plugins out there including Hola VPN, Tunnelbear, and Cyberghost.
A pro tip for you: if your VPN says it will work in China, it will work almost anywhere in the world. When traveling internationally, not all VPNs will work in every country, one of the big disadvantages of the free plugins. However, often you can find one that will work in the country you are in for free. Check with an IT person or upgrade to the paid version of plugins for more choices and better security.
Use Cell Service When You Can
It’s not impossible to intercept a cell signal, but it is much harder to get data from it than from a public wi-fi one, so if you need to do something sensitive like banking try to use cell service when you can.
This is an advantage that some tablets have over laptops. They can be equipped with sim cards and so offer you a more secure network than connecting to wifi. However, sometimes international plans on these plus your phone makes the cost prohibitive. You can pick up local prepaid sim cards if your tablet is compatible with them.
In some cases, you can use your phone hotspot to access cellular with your laptop or computer, but be careful. The connection you have overseas might be much slower than what you are used to in the United States, and the unlimited data you have here probably does not apply there. Using data will cost you, and it might be expensive.
Enable Encryption and Two-factor Authentication
Whenever possible, set up two factor authentication for any application that holds your personal information including social media, banking, document managers, and email. So that if anyone tries to get your password they would not be succeeded in their motive. Because when you will add two factor authentications no one access your account without your devices or some other way to verify your identity. This is possible with things like Facebook, Google, PayPal, your bank, your Apple ID, and other common apps that contain credit card data and other personal information. Your Facebook is a gold mine for hackers, so keep it especially secure.
Also, enable file encryption on your laptop and other devices. This way even if someone gets past your PIN or pulls your hard drive or steals your memory stick, they won’t be able to get the data without a lengthy password or your security protocols. This is one of the ways you can protect your data even if your laptop, phone, or tablet is stolen.
Use Password Managers
This is true all of the time, but especially when you are traveling. Use password managers and generators that create super secure passwords and remember them under one master password that you create. For Apple products you can use iCloud Keychain which will be attached to your Apple ID. For other systems, you can use LastPass or other similar plugins to perform the same function for you.
Either way, these passwords will be more secure than anything you would create on your own and will keep at least the less determined snoops and hackers away from your data, and make it harder on the other ones.
When you travel internationally, you are vulnerable and a security risk. When you blog as you travel, you need to access the internet frequently, and that can make you an even bigger target. Follow these steps to keep your data secure when you’re out there travel blogging.