Regardless of whether you’re a high frequency business traveler or travel occasionally for leisure, traveling abroad creates additional and for most of us, bewildering cybersecurity threats. The multiple devices we travel with, including our phones, laptops and iPads, carry personal data that can be hacked by increasingly clever cybercriminals. There are a few simple things we should be doing to be more secure when traveling, according to experts on cybercrime.
Starting with the most obvious safety measure, ensure that your device is locked using a PIN number or fingerprint ID. That way if you’re pickpocketed or misplace your device, thieves won’t be able to access your data. Less apparent perhaps, to non-techie travelers, is to check that your operating system is up to date on all your devices. An out-of-date operating system is a major security risk and an open invitation to hackers.
Another essential step is to install anti-virus protection to keep your personal and business information secure while traveling. According to Bojan Jovanovic of DataProt, only half of mobile devices in the United States have some kind of antivirus protection.
And, although it’s extremely appealing to use free WiFi in a city you travel to, it’s not always a great idea as these networks aren’t always secure. Don’t use unencrypted WiFi networks and if you do use free WiFi hotspots, try not to access highly personal sites like your bank accounts. The same goes for Bluetooth on your phone; if you leave it permanently on, cyberthieves could hack your device.
Use a password manager
Also crucial for your cybersafety, both at home and while traveling, is a password manager — an impenetrable “vault” that stores your passwords. It’s the most important thing you can do, alongside two-factor authentication, to keep your online data safe. Managing secure passwords for all your online accounts on all your devices, demands a good memory, to say the least. Every website requires passwords to include numbers or special characters to make passwords more secure but also making them even more difficult to memorize. It’s so tempting to use the same password for multiple sites but with data breaches on the rise, using the same password everywhere is a huge risk. If you do use the same password repeatedly, once hacked, all sites using that password are hacked.
The importance of keeping your passwords safe cannot be understated. In an age when more than 2 billion people shop online, passwords are the gatekeepers protecting your personal data from cybercriminals. “As individuals, we cannot remember more than a few passwords. Using a single sign-on, in combination with a password manager and strong independent passwords for different accounts, is a must” advises Oleksandr Senyuk, founder of the new password manager app KeyReel.
A password manager stores your login details for the websites, apps and other services you use in a secure, encrypted form. Once that is set up, the only password you need to remember is the one for the password manager itself that, once entered, unlocks your vault of passwords, allowing access to any of your sites or apps with a single click.
The best known online password managers like 1Password, Dashlane and LastPass use the Cloud for storage and they keep encrypted copies of your password vault on their own servers. Each of these password apps offers a secure digital vault, a form filler and a digital wallet. Although KeyReel’s Oleksandr Senyuk, who has an extensive background working with Cloud companies, says the Cloud itself is not insecure, he does say that there is a risk that cybercriminals can breach a cloud-based service. This risk is small but there is a risk nonetheless because criminals are known to put a huge amount of effort into trying to hack cloud-based password managers. This is why Mr Senyuk created KeyReel, a “local” password management system, the first of its kind to store and sync your “vault” of passwords and other sensitive information on your own devices without using cloud servers. Your phone becomes a smart security system.
The Keyreel app encrypts and stores all of your passwords on your android or i-Phone without transferring them back and forth to a cloud, thus protecting them from cybersecurity threats. Another unique feature is that your passwords aren’t available on other devices unless you’re in physical range. You don’t need a master password either because your phone becomes the authentication key. When in Bluetooth range of your computer, credentials are transferred from your phone to your computer, auto-filling and logging you in automatically as you browse. Once your phone is out of range of your laptop, you’re automatically logged out of all open accounts.
If you lose your phone, you can restore your password vault to a new phone with a backup stored on your computer. This vault syncs with the vault on the phone via Bluetooth every time you connect with KeyReel. Even the FBI failed to hack the 256-AES military-grade encryption that KeyReel uses to protect their customers’ data.
KeyReel’s founder says he is on a mission “to make Keyreel work for everyone, so you don’t have to be an IT professional to have essential protection.” To get started, KeyReel allows you to store your passwords in a “vault” on your phone for free. Considering the fact that many people store their passwords in a very insecure standard memo app on their phone, this seems like an essential, minimum security step. If you want to access the full application (including autofilling and backing up passwords), there’s a reasonable annual fee (US$17.99) or a one-time fee of US $39.99.
Consider VPNs or Proxies
In addition to a secure password manager, using an intermediate software, like a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or proxy service, is also highly recommended while traveling. These services hide your online actions, making them virtually undetectable and preventing potential thieves from obtaining access to your sensitive data. Even though both tools, in essence, enhance privacy and security levels, they also have some key differences. “The bottom line is that VPN services are tailored for home users namely for anonymity while proxies are preferred by enterprises for a multitude of uses” says Julius Cerniauskas, CEO at Oxylabs, a provider of premium proxies and data scraping solutions. “That is the case because a VPN’s main function –traffic encryption – is the perfect solution for individuals to keep their traffic and accounts safe while on the go. Meanwhile, the flexibility of proxies make them ideal for larger-scale cyber protection solutions, such as screening incoming emails against malware.”
It is so important to understand that although digitalization has brought untold benefits to our lives, it has also created many risks so it’s crucial to keep up with the latest IT security developments, especially when we’re traveling and using WiFi access points, a favorite target for cybercriminals.