For me, I make sure to observe the following rules every time I travel.
USE DISCREET BAGS FOR DEVICES
Instead of choosing bags for aesthetic reasons, opt for a plain bag to avoid unwanted attention. Also, make sure the material is sturdy enough to weather the journey and any attempts to pry it open. In my case, while my custom ultra-strong composite fabric carrier never wins any compliments from hipsters, it is not just water and cut proof, but also very functional. Similarly, I keep my mobile gadgets in old and beaten cases to make them look like they are way overdue for an upgrade. You might be surprised but these gadgets are highly targeted for both their resale value and the information inside.
ENCRYPT YOUR DEVICES AND AVOID OPEN WIFI
It is estimated that less than half of the phones, and even fewer laptops, are encrypted globally. But there is really no excuse for not doing it since most modern operating systems have intuitive one-click encryption options, which doesn’t take a tech geek to turn on. That said, it’s possible to get hacked even with a strong encryption. WiFi Pineapple is one such platform. Cheap, easy to set up and allows anyone to execute a “man in the middle” attack to collect information passing through, WiFi Pineapple is like a regular hotspot that has been modified to execute network attacks. Therefore, get a local SIM card the next time you travel. Most countries today have decent 3G or 4G networks.
EXERCISE CAUTION WHEN MAKING CARD PAYMENTS
The “man in the middle” attacks are also prevalent in credit card payments. Although wireless payments present much convenience, they also allow thieves to perform undetected near-field communication (NFC) micro-charges. It is also not uncommon for hackers to attach fake microchips on top of real ones to fake terminal transactions.
Actually attacks are not always technically sophisticated. I recall a time when I made payment to a shop attendant in one of the less secure airports. She claimed that the closest terminal was in another store and disappeared with my card for a good 10 minutes. I only realised much later that she had charged expenses to my account. Luckily, the loss was not too high.
Long story short – use cash or services, like Uber, which can automatically charge based on your preferred payment method.
BEWARE WHEN ENTERING PASSWORDS
Surprisingly, even the most adept tech professional may be susceptible to simple tricks such as video recordings of one typing passwords on phones and laptops. All it takes is a password to access a service such as email and a door will be created for hackers to access other resources. Hence, if you have to work on the go, find a private corner and always use protective screens. Password aggregators can also make logins more convenient and secure.
Feel free to try out some of my rules the next time you hit the road. Combine them with some common sense, and your journey might just become safer as well as more pleasant and productive.