— written by Shane Murphy
“The road is life”, Jack Kerouac famously wrote. It sure is. But even when your plan is to head off the grid and get lost in the wilderness for a while, having access to the internet when you need it can be a lifeline. Whether booking your next hostel or looking up directions to the nearest embassy in a lost-passport-crisis situation, sometimes logging on is an inevitable part of getting certain things done.
Every so often, tragic tales of ‘travels gone wrong’ make global headlines, which is why many of us do our homework in advance to ensure we know which of the main streets are safe to walk on at night and which dark, lonely back alleys to avoid. However, when it comes to online security, navigating the web safely is a far less explored territory for those of us on the move.
The last setback you need when you’re thousands of miles from home (and your bank) is to have your money and personal information stolen. Unfortunately, in the digital age pickpocketing isn’t the only way for professional thieves to get a hold of your property. Cyber dangers such as identity theft or hacking can also occur on the go without adequate precautions being taken, so it’s a good idea to take stock and make sure you have the necessary measures in place to protect yourself.
The blogger at large
The world of blogging is a rewarding and personally enjoyable experience so don’t let the technical running aspect of it put you off! It’s easier than you think too. This guide to starting your own travel blog takes you through the basics to get you up and running.
Blogging is the perfect way to document your travels, share your experiences with the community and make a visual diary of your most amazing moments, but once you get started, you may want delve a little deeper into the technicalities – particularly if your blog is gaining popularity. However, as with any website, there are a variety of cyber security dangers out there that you need to be aware of.
To prevent a total catastrophe in the event of theft, loss or damage (particularly annoying if you were in the middle of documenting a journey), remember the cardinal rule and always back up your data to a hard drive or cloud storage system as you go along and lock down all of your devices with passwords.
We’ve all felt that panicked realisation of having left our phone on a table/bar counter/sun lounger, which is why lost device trackers such as Find my iPhone can be a great backup. Of course, be aware that as professional thieves will expect you to have it installed and know how to sidestep its ability to function by turning off the connectivity straight away (to prevent you tracking them), it’s not a bulletproof method of defence… Best option is to take a few minutes to do that long overdue back up!
Safely exchanging data on the move
Online transactions are more or less inescapable when travelling, especially if booking last minute accommodation and tickets. With any purchase, an unencrypted (unsecure) website carries the risk of allowing third parties to infiltrate and view data being shared between the user (you) and the site you’re making a purchase from. Ensuring that the website you’re purchasing from has the necessary security measures in place is essential, usually indicated by the ‘https’ protocol before the ‘www’ and the padlock symbol in the browser bar to show that the website you are using is encrypted.
Furthermore, website review sites such as Trustpilot contain independent user ratings from people who have shopped on the site before will help you decide if a site is dodgy or legit before entering in your personal credentials.
Avoid a Mac attack
In September 2016, Apple released an update for all users of its El Capitan and Yosemite operating systems after a security flaw was uncovered that could leave users vulnerable to third party infiltration and spying. Although this advice isn’t specific to just travelling Mac users, updating your Mac devices with the developed patch to ensure you’re not a potential victim of this security threat is a very good idea, particularly if you’re going to be moving around in different cities and countries.
Similarly, using a VPN or firewall when you connect to unsecure Wi-Fi networks – a sometimes unavoidable aspect of travel when roaming from place to place – will help prevent unwanted overseers from gaining personal information, passwords or credit card details.
Taking care when downloading files and forms is an obvious given that most people don’t have to be told. Sometimes the only convenient way to obtain indispensable items such as tickets on the road is to download them on to your devices and make sure you’re not picking up any malware by checking the sites credentials. Red flags include: a website’s contact email doesn’t match the site URL, expired or non-existent security certificates, non-encryption and even poor spelling and layout.
Being aware of pitfalls online when travelling is important but don’t let this stop you! A little common sense and some simple safeguards can ensure your trip remains an amazing memory-filled adventure.