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Personal Data Protection | 8 Ways to Keep Your Data Safe When Travelling


8 Tips to Keep Your Data Safe When Travelling Abroad

Reading time: 3 mins

Health and safety are priorities when travelling overseas. Because of this, most of us are aware of the importance of protecting ourselves with travel insurance. Besides covering medical expenses, a good travel insurance also covers trip cancellations and ensures our personal belongings are secure. But while we worry about our vacation being ruined by pickpockets, or emergency hospital visits, we may not think twice about cyber threats.

When travelling internationally, the data you store and your online habits can put your privacy and security at risk. And like most people, you probably use your mobile phone and other personal communication devices to store your personal information. While it’s important to be concerned about your physical wellbeing, and the safety of your electronic gadgets, these days you’re likely to be more vulnerable to online threats and scams than being mugged on the street. 

Considering that the personal data stored on your devices could include usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, flight details, logins, etc., having this information stolen can be quite the nightmare. That’s why it’s good to be proactive and ensure your personal data stays private while you enjoy a carefree holiday.

So, here are 8 tips you should practice to keep your devices secure and protect your personal data while travelling:

1. Backup Your Files 

This is something you should do even before you begin your journey. Save all your important electronic files and documents on a backup device like an external hard disk and leave this at home. This is the best way to ensure that your data does not get compromised when you’re travelling. 

You should also remove any sensitive data such as your bank account details or security passwords from your devices to avoid it falling into the wrong hands. Consider storing these details on a cloud storage system so you can securely access it from anywhere if you really need to.

2. Update the Antivirus

Keeping an up-to-date antivirus is crucial in protecting your devices from external threats. Old or obsolete security software can leave your gadgets vulnerable to hackers. And seeing that you probably use your device for all kinds of personal transactions, maintaining a solid level of security should be at the top of mind.

3. Activate Auto Lock and Password Protection

Password protection is the very basics of data security and the first line of defense to protect your data if you lose your device or if it gets stolen while on holiday. It’s a good way to ensure that the thief has a much harder time getting into your device and accessing your personal information. 

Use a PIN number or security code even if it may be cumbersome to key in every time you want to check your phone. Alternatively, set a screen lock time limit so that your device automatically locks itself when not in use. Better yet, use the biometric identification feature like the fingerprint swipe or facial recognition, which makes it even tougher for someone else to get in. This way, if your phone is lost or stolen at least you only lose the phone and not your data.

4. Only Use Secure Wi-Fi

Have you heard of fake hot-spots? Designed to fool the connecting user into thinking they are accessing a free WiFi network at high-traffic areas – such as airports, hotels, restaurants –  these scammers siphon off personal data and sell it on the digital black market.

So, be cautious when signing into unknown or unprotected networks. What you may be unaware of is that every time you sign into an open network, you are unknowingly consenting to your internet traffic (including passwords) being open to public view. Disable the auto connect function of your Wi-Fi when travelling, and ensure that you are connecting to a network that requires a password or keyword authentication.

Another option is to use a pocket Wi-Fi router. Changi Recommends provides an easy option to book a pocket Wi-Fi router and collect it at their counter in Changi Airport before your departure. It comes with an installed sim card, so you can get connected overseas immediately. Besides ensuring you have a secure connection, this portable Wi-Fi also features fast internet, is compact and lightweight to carry with you and can connect up to 8 devices at any given time.

5. Disable Bluetooth Connectivity

Another thing you should disable on your devices when travelling is the automatic Bluetooth connectivity. It’s easy to hack into your device and steal your personal data via your Bluetooth. 

Think of this as a digital entrance to your device – much like the door to your home. If you leave it open, hackers can connect to your device and download the data on it before you go out of range. They can also make calls, send texts, and access the internet via your device. 

So, use it when you actually need to, and make sure it’s off when you don’t. This will also save the battery life of your devices.

6. Avoid Location Sharing, if possible

In this era of social media, it can be tempting to share your holiday plans and location with the rest of the world every step of the way. But broadcasting your whereabouts across your social media platforms is in fact inviting online criminals to keep track of you.

It’s best to post all your pictures after you get back home (as difficult as that may be) and

limit the amount of information you share on your specific whereabouts when using social media.

7. Check Sensitive Accounts Regularly

Get into a routine of checking your sensitive financial accounts daily with a secure Wi-Fi, before you leave your hotel room for sightseeing. Also, make it a habit to check them when you get back. The sooner you spot fraudulent behaviour, the better. Just make sure you log out of your accounts every time and clear the cache!

8. Lock Your Devices in a Safe

Most hotel rooms and tourist accommodations have safes for storing valuable items while travelling. Use it to store any smart devices you don’t need for the day, like your laptop, USB, or external hard drive. Don’t leave these devices lying around your room, allowing for easy access to your personal data.

Returning from Your Trip

Bear in mind that electronics and devices used or obtained abroad can be compromised. Your mobile phone and other electronic devices may be vulnerable to malware if you connect with local networks abroad. 

Here are some additional steps to take even after returning from your holiday to ensure that your data is secure:

  • Update your security software on all devices on your return home.
  • Check all devices, media and thumb drives for malware, unauthorised access or other corruption. Do not connect it to a trusted network until you have tested it for malware.
  • Reformat your device with a trusted source if it seems to be compromised. Then you can restore data from backups taken before the trip.
  • Change the passwords for things like corporate accounts, banks, etc., using a device other than the one you traveled with for extra safety.
  • Review your bank transactions and continue to monitor your accounts for unapproved use over the next few weeks after your trip.

At the end of the day, no matter where you’re traveling to, it pays to follow these 8 tips for added safety and peace of mind. The last thing you want is to be caught unaware and lose important data while on holiday!