Personal Security While Traveling in 2021 & Beyond

Information as of July 30, 2021

As travel continues to increase across the US and globally, it is critical to be cognizant of privacy exposure while away from home. Many travelers may not consider the threats to their privacy, personal information, or corporate data when setting out for a trip; however, compromised privacy can have long-lasting effects personally and professionally.

Airports, hotels, and tourist sites are frequently targeted by criminal actors for collection of personal and corporate data. Criminals and even state-actors may take advantage of travelers who are unfamiliar with their surroundings; you should never assume your privacy is protected. You may be targeted for the purposes of identity theft, credit card fraud, theft of proprietary corporate information, or other malicious intentions.

The proper precautions before and during travel can help protect your personal information and sensitive or proprietary company data. Consider the following best practices before hitting the road:

  1. Keep multiple copies of your IDs in secure locations. Secure your passport and other identification or official documents when not in your hotel room, and keep a copy in another location in case one gets lost or stolen.
  2. Be smart about connecting to public Wi-Fi. Do not connect to the public Wi-Fi offered at airports, hotels, cafes, etc. without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your device. A VPN will conceal your device’s IP address and some VPNs encrypt your data. Bring your own hot spot for private internet connection, if possible.
  3. Do not connect your devices to public USB ports. USB cables allow transmission of both power and data, so while you may think you are simply charging your device you may also be inadvertently transmitting data if the port has been compromised.
  4. Know the cybersecurity risks of your destination when traveling internationally, and prepare accordingly. In some countries there is a significantly increased risk of the government or criminal organizations monitoring internet and cell phone traffic. Even with a VPN, it may not be safe to access your bank, email, or other accounts with sensitive information.
  5. Consider bringing “clean” devices if traveling to a country with high cyber monitoring risks. Leave your personal and work devices at home, and instead travel with new devices that contain only the basic information you need while traveling. For example, purchase an international pay-as-you-go phone and load in only the contacts you will need to use during your trip.
  6. Secure your devices when not in use. Store laptops, tablets, and other devices securely when not using them or when out of the room, and do leave them unattended in vehicles. Keep these devices in your carry-on luggage when flying.
  7. Check for security cameras in your rental property. Many rental properties have security cameras set up in the living spaces so the owners can remotely confirm when guests have arrived. Check for these cameras and disable them for the duration of your stay, reactivating them immediately prior to your departure.
  8. Wait until you are home to post on social media. Do not post about your itinerary on social media while you are traveling, as this broadcasts that your residence is unoccupied.

 

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With almost 15 years working for the CIA and the FBI and now another 17+ in the private sector, I still regularly bring those well-honed