How to Protect Your Data and
Online Electronics Overseas

Protecting your online electronics and digital data is no longer optional when you're traveling overseas. 

If you plan to keep your your gadgets functioning and your info safe, you have no choice but to take command of your online security, when traveling out-side your home country.

You may be asking...is this something I really need to be concerned about? 

Overseas travel should be fun and worry-free. Right?  

Even when traveling for work, the idea is to stay focused on the business at hand.

You’re not supposed to spend your travel time worrying about criminal hackers and scammers invading your personal techno-space to steal your data.

Or worse, killing your online electronics.  

But that’s just what the hacking crowd has in mind.

They’re searching for you and your electronic machines in your hotel room, at the airport, and wherever you digitally connect with friends, family, or business associates while traveling overseas. 

Dawn Over the Rhine

Online criminal hackers are everywhere, in every country. 

Their goal is to threaten travelers' online security, whenever you set about establishing an online connection.

International travelers face a popular and pervasive threat to their techno gear via damage or infection to their phones and laptops via pop-up ads.

The damage often occurs as you attempt to access the internet through hotel wi-fi, but are prevented from connecting unless or until you update one or more familiar software programs.  

Once you complete these fake 'updates', the scammers have gained access to your protected data.   

And, worst case scenario: your computer is disabled or your electronics won't function, due to having been taken over by the hackers. 

A division of the FBI, known as the Internet Crime Complaint Center, offers a way for Americans to file a complaint, if an online invasion occurs. But that does little to quickly remedy your situation, when you're traveling abroad.

They do, however, offer some suggestions for how to protect yourself from the online bad-guys before you travel.

Even though the the risk of digital invasion may be low, travelers can ward off potential hackers by using only the AC outlets in airport kiosks, rather than establishing a direct connection via a USB port.   

Smart travelers avoid airport kiosks altogether, relying on battery packs to power their electronics, thus eliminating the possible exposure of their data.

And since since so many travelers compete for airport connectivity, you also eliminate both the cost and the difficulty of finding an available connection.

Create Your Own Online Security

Today’s traveler is easy prey for scammers, hackers, and thieves, who may be looking to spy, steal, or destroy your online electronics and personal data.  

So, what’s a traveler to do to protect herself from prying eyes?  

The simple answer is 'Don’t take your online electronics with you.' 

But we all know, that solution is neither practical or realistic in our age of online traveler connectivity. 

Today's travel almost begs for travelers to be online. It allows you to:  

  • Search out the best things to do in any location;
  • Review hotels, restaurants, and shopping venus;
  • Snap photos to record your travel memories;
  • Follow podcasts for local walks and attractions;
  • Learn the historical significance of sights and events;
  • Follow maps or directions and search for routes;
  • Confirm tickets and transportation options;
  • Stay connected with your family and friends. 

These are just some of the reasons today's travelers feel online electronics are as important to their overseas trip as their clothes, shoes, and passports. 

So if you must travel with your electronics, you must also learn to protect your equipment, your data, and your online privacy, while staying safely connected on the road. 

Friendly Flags Over Amsterdam

With a bit of advance planning and a commitment to stay digitally safe during overseas travel, we've outlined some basic cyber security tips to protect both your electronics and your data when traveling internationally: 

  • Take a 'clean' device [no personal or work information]. If you travel often, buy the best cheap tablet you can afford and keep it only for traveling.   
  • If you take a currently-used device, remove all personal and financial info, including banking, credit cards, passport data, logins, and any personal identity information. 
  • Update security systems, patches, and change all passwords just before traveling.   
  • Purchase a cheap cell phone and local sim card at your destination. 
  • Power off and disconnect devices, when not in use. Spies can follow a device that’s hibernating or sleeping. 
  • Eliminate cameras, microphones, and other ancillary devices that are not built in. 
  • Don’t rely on encryption. Assume anyone, anywhere, can access your info. 
  • Don’t shop, pay bills, or make purchases online. 
  • Keep your online electronic device with you at all times. Be wary of hotel safes. 
  • Never put personal info of any kind on shared computers, eg., at cyber cafes, hotel business centers, or a device you might borrow. 
  • When you return home, change all passwords and logins, and update all security. Store your device until your next trip.

While some of these steps may seem extreme, Americans, especially, are often targeted for their online electronics. Protect yourself and your equipment by taking proactive steps to protect yourself.   

And leave the thieves to bother someone else.

A New Threat to Online Electronics

The newest threat to your online privacy, data security, not to mention your electronic devices, is coming from right here in the good ole USA, along with certain overseas countries, who signed on to stringent new rules for boarding U.S. bound aircraft [on direct flights] with electronic devices. 

I’m not disputing the need, or the right, of the TSA to enforce common-sense carry on rules.   

But I do expect, when new or enhanced security measures are put into effect,  Americans and other U.S. bound travelers should be given a reasonable method of compliance, rather than having to hand over our online electronics, which can result in the condoned stealing of personal property and the compromise [if not the outright loss] of our online privacy.

Lintel Over the Door

New boarding regulations [pre-Trump] were put in place at certain overseas airports, where random travelers are asked to power up their electronic equipment, as part of their security clearance. 

This is in addition to routine examinations of mobile or hand-held devices.  

If your device battery is dead or refuses to power up, options for getting your device onboard with you are practically nil. In plain English, this means your device may be confiscated, and you won't be allowed to take it with you on the aircraft.

Your options: you can change to another flight, allowing time to charge your device. You can try to mail it home [an expensive proposition, if traveling internationally]. Or you can kiss your online electronics goodbye, along with your stored data, personal or work files, and online privacy. 

The solution seems simple and clear: make sure all of your travel electronics are fully charged before entering airport security lines.   

But, that’s not always easy to do, if you find yourself at your outbound airport with a long wait and your device battery running low.   

Battery packs, charging cables, rapid-charge stations, and external batteries - any of these might work, if there’s time and a place to use them. And, if the TSA allows you to carry such component devices onboard with you.   

But these random 'power up' rules can result in international travelers being caught powerless to retain possession of their equipment, much less maintain the integrity of their data and online privacy. 

This rule [effective as of July, 2014] still has travelers - and sometimes TSA agents - scrambling for solutions. International business travelers have been especially hard hit, as flying home often comes at the end of a busy day of electronic usage. 

Your best hope for keeping your online electronics in your possession when boarding a flight back to the U.S., is to make sure your electronics are sufficiently charged for any requested power up at security check points. 

If not, you run the risk of your devices and all your data winding up in someone else’s hands.







Additional Resources You May Find Interesting:

Being a Business Traveler Stinks Even More Now


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