5 travel tips on how to protect your digital identity and data

A cybercriminal working in the dark to capture your digital information. Picture: Unsplash

A cybercriminal working in the dark to capture your digital information. Picture: Unsplash

Published Apr 18, 2024


Travelling presents not only the excitement of exploration and new places, but also the challenge of safeguarding your devices and data.

According to Earthweb’s online privacy expert, Trevor Cooke, protecting you digital identity is important when you travel.

He said that before you connect to foreign wi-fi networks and swap SIM cards this summer make sure that it is safe to do so.

Below are some of Cooke’s tips to help you protect your digital identity and data while on the move.

Invest in a VPN

Cooke highlighted that when travelling, you’ll inevitably connect to numerous new wi-fi networks in airports, hotels, cafés, and restaurants, however, these open wi-fi channels can pose a significant security risk, as cybercriminals often exploit them to intercept sensitive data.

He said one effective way to mitigate this risk is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) plug-in on your device.

“Not only does a VPN encrypt your internet connection, shielding your data from prying eyes, but it also allows you to bypass geo-restrictions, granting access to your favourite shows and movies regardless of your location.

“That means you can still watch all your favourite Netflix shows, no matter where you are,” said Cooke.

The cybersecurity expert said that while many VPN services require a monthly subscription fee, their added protection far outweighs the potential cost of data breaches and identity theft in the long run.

Backup your data before you go

Cooke said that in bustling tourist destinations, the risk of falling victim to pickpockets is ever-present, with electronic devices like smartphones being prime targets.

He advised that to pre-emptively protect your valuable data, you must ensure that all your information is securely backed up on devices left at home as this precaution ensures that even if your device is stolen, your data remains safe and accessible.

“Also, be sure to maintain regular backups during your trip using a cloud storage service to safeguard cherished travel memories like those all-important photos,” he said.

Prepare for two-factor authentication

The online privacy expert said that while navigating through an additional step to access your accounts may seem inconvenient, two-factor authentication is an invaluable defence against cybercriminals.

He said think of it as akin to a bolt on a door in addition to a lock and that when travelling, the key is ensuring seamless access to these security features while abroad.

“Before departing, ask yourself: Do I have all the necessary devices to access my accounts? If you’re going to swap out your SIM card, you’ll also need to update the phone number associated with 2FA. Otherwise, you may get locked out,” said Cooke.

Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use

He also said that it’s convenient to keep your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on but this can make your devices vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“Sometimes, Bluetooth attacks come in the form of cybercriminals sending things to your device, from spam advertisements to malware.

“A more dangerous form of Bluetooth cybercrime is ‘Bluesnarfing’ where attackers can take data from your devices such as text messages and emails and then use this data to hack into your accounts,” highlighted the expert.

He added that cybercriminals have also found ways to create a backdoor into accounts through a process called ‘Bluebugging’.

“Because of these threats, it’s essential to keep devices in discoverable mode only when you actually want to pair your device.

“Similar attacks can be made on open Wi-Fi networks, so switching off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is necessary before you travel,” he advised.

Use the hotel safe for devices

Finally, Cooke revealed that while most housekeepers aren’t going to rummage through your things, there are criminals known as “door pushers"who walk through hotel hallways looking for unlocked rooms to loot.

The cybersecurity expert advised travellers to keep their valuables secure by taking advantage of the hotel safe as only hotel management should have a universal key to unlock it, just in case you do forget the code you’ve created.

“It’s common practice for users to have a physical note on their computer with passwords on it. This is fine at home, but take those off while you travel in case of theft. It’s not fun to have to replace,” said Cooke.