10 Easy Ways to Protect Your Data While Travelling

Gavin Phillips 27-04-2017

Travelling to more exotic climes is simply one of the best things in life. Whether you’re hitting the slopes, climbing mountains, or working hard on that tan, you won’t be far from your smartphone or laptop. How else are you going to make everyone back at home jealous?


Protecting your data while travelling around is very important. You might not be holidaying at all. Travelling for work is important, and carries the same risks. If you’re interested in how to keep your personal and private data safe when you’re on the road 6 Online Security Tips for Travelers and Road Warriors Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, Wi-Fi networks, different online privacy laws, and physical dangers to your hardware all combine to make travel a risky business for your personal and data security. Read More , read on.

1. Use a USB Wi-Fi Adapter

There are some scenarios that invite issues. Using free, unsecured Wi-Fi is one of them 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi You've heard that you shouldn't open PayPal, your bank account and possibly even your email while using public WiFi. But what are the actual risks? Read More . This issue is slightly mitigated when using a well-secured Wi-Fi outlet, but there are still several strategies unscrupulous individuals can use in an attempt to capture your data.

wi-fi hotspot

It is extremely easy to mimic a wireless access point 5 Ways Hackers Can Use Public Wi-Fi to Steal Your Identity You might love using public Wi-Fi -- but so do hackers. Here are five ways cybercriminals can access your private data and steal your identity, while you're enjoying a latte and a bagel. Read More from within an establishment. Alternatively, you might be asked to enter personal information to access the free Wi-Fi. How will that data be used?

Using a private Wi-Fi adapter eradicates a significant number of issues. You can purchase a dongle before your trip. Your local carrier might have a great deal on international data. We’re lucky in Europe that many carriers are reducing (or removing) data limits, or at least offering your existing cell-contract as standard while travelling. Alternatively, head to a local retailer and check out their deals.


If it is a country you frequent, you might save money in the long run by picking up and using a local carrier for your mobile data.

2. Avoid Public Computers

A massive private and personal data no-no is a public computer. There is no way of telling what has been installed on a computer in a public setting, be that keylogger, malware, or virus.

linux windows deal breakers public computers

If you are forced to use a public computer 5 Ways to Make Sure Public Computers You Use Are Safe Public WiFi is dangerous no matter what computer you're on, but foreign machines demand even greater caution. If you're using a public computer follow these guidelines to ensure your privacy and safety. Read More , don’t sign into your social media or online bank accounts, and avoid opening private or sensitive mail.


If there is literally no other option, see “Use a LiveUSB/CD” down below.

3. Bulk It Out

More extreme measures might be necessary, depending on where you’re travelling. Some governments are notoriously strict on what data and technology can enter their country. Always research what to expect at the border. That way you won’t be surprised if the border control take your device away for more intensive investigation.

In many cases, there is little you can do to directly protest an invasive technology inspection. After all, you don’t really want to end up on the next flight home. But you can get ahead of the game.

Digital-security advocate and journalist, Quinn Norton, suggests instead of wiping your device or hiding it in specific places, try the opposite. “Don’t try to hide your data. The more you hide your data, the more you signal your importance.” The alternative is creating multiple inaccurate records to mask the valuable data.


It is an interesting strategy. Its best chance of success works in conjunction with other mitigation plans.

4. Back Up and Wipe

The United States Customs and Border Patrol is drastically increasing the rate of searches on private and personal devices Smartphone & Laptop Searches: Know Your Rights Do you know what your rights are when travelling overseas with a laptop, smartphone or hard drive? Read More on entry to the country. U.S. citizens have a specific set of rights protecting their privacy while on home soil. The same rights do not extend to those travelling to the US for work or fun. I must add that the U.S. is far from the only country that has these types of rules in place. Regardless, you need a strategy to keep your data safe 6 Ways to Defend Your Privacy at the Border Is the Trump administration is considering demanding lists of websites, passwords, and social media accounts from people entering the U.S.? And if so, how can you avoid this scrutiny? Read More .

If you’re particularly worried about your data being cloned, one strategy is to backup all your data to a cloud service. Then, simply wipe your device clean. If you’re feeling really devious, use DBAN to completely zero your drive 4 Ways to Completely Delete Your HDD When selling an old computer, or HDD, or even if you're just looking to dispose of it, securely erasing everything on your hard drive is very important. But how do you do that? Read More . Once you’re through the border, restore your cloud data using an encrypted connection.

However, the zeroed drive might arouse suspicion. Why would you travel with a completely clean laptop/smartphone?


The creation of a temporary user account 5 Tips for Managing Windows User Accounts Like a Pro Windows user accounts have evolved from isolated local accounts to online accounts with various privacy challenges. We help you sort out your accounts and find the settings that work for you. Read More on your laptop or smartphone is a good way to alleviate suspicion, especially if used in conjunction with the “Bulk It Out” strategy. Your temporary, completely blank user account might arouse suspicion on its own.

But a basic account with some placeholder files will stand a better chance.

5. Multiple Devices

If you do travel to the same country for work several times a year, consider using a burner phone 4 Good Reasons To Get an Emergency Burner Phone Your smartphone has tons of features, and that's a great thing. Sometimes, you just need a basic phone to keep around for emergencies. Let's look at why. Read More and/or laptop. I mean, less with the actual throwing away, more with the having multiple devices in multiple locations. If your laptop is primarily used for work, it isn’t unfeasible to pick up a cheap, second-hand device to keep stored in a secure location.

Of course, wipe the second-hand laptop before you use it!

6. Use a LiveUSB or LiveCD

There are some situations where the only option is to use a public device. I’ve been caught short before. Wrong laptop charger, dead battery. Dead phone. Panic. However, I always keep a USB packed with various security and privacy tools, as well as a Linux distribution or two The 5 Best Linux Distros to Install on a USB Stick USB are great for running portable versions of Linux. Here are the most useful Linux distributions to run from a live USB drive. Read More .

In this instance, booting a Linux LiveUSB or LiveCD Create a Bootable USB From an ISO With These 10 Tools Want to create a bootable USB drive from an ISO file? We've got the ten best bootable USB pendrive creators around. Read More can save the day. Instead of having to log onto the public computer with your private information, potentially compromising yourself, the LiveUSB boots an operating system, entirely separate from the host machine. Your data will remain secure, and you’ll still be able to maintain all of your regular communications.

7. Use HTTPS

The use of HTTPS is essential What Is a Website Security Certificate? What You Need to Know Website security certificates help make the web more secure and safer for online transactions. Here's how security certificates work. Read More . I would advise this even if you’re not travelling around. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) suggest encrypting your data wherever you are. To help us out, they created the HTTPS Everywhere browser addon. This add-on is included in the default setup of the super-privacy focused Tor browser, giving you some idea of how useful it is.

HTTPS will protect you against many forms of surveillance, as well as account hijacking and some forms of censorship.

HTTPS Everywhere is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Work is underway to port HTTPS Everywhere to Microsoft Edge.

8. Use a VPN

Like HTTPS, using a VPN is a very easy method of boosting your security 8 Instances You Weren't Using a VPN but Should've Been: The VPN Checklist If you haven't already considered subscribing to a VPN to secure your privacy, now is the time. Read More while travelling. A VPN provides an encrypted tunnel to a private server located in a different country to your host. While HTTPS Everywhere encrypts all internet traffic in-browser, a VPN will encrypt all of your internet traffic, period.

We suggest picking up an ExpressVPN subscription.

9. Track Your Devices

Apple led the way with regards to tracking and wiping devices. iOS devices have long been trackable 8 Ways to Find a Lost iPhone (And What to Do If You Can't Get It Back) If your iPhone goes missing, you need to look for it and find it as soon as possible. Here's how. Read More through the “Find My” feature. Your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even Apple Watch can be located through your iCloud portal. From there, you can track your device location, ping it, ring it, lock it, or wipe it.

find my ipad using icloud

It took a while for Google to catch up, but Android devices are now trackable through the Android Device Manager 2 Easy Ways to Recover a Lost or Stolen Android Phone These methods can help you find your lost or stolen Android phone or tablet. Read More . From there you remotely locate, ring, lock, or wipe your device.

Windows or Linux laptops need a little bit of extra help. Prey offer free tracking accounts for up to three devices. Features include detecting geolocation, snapping front and backward facing photos where possible, identifying the surrounding Wi-Fi networks, and much more. Did I mention it is free? Get it now!

If your device is stolen and it looks like it is in your locale, please don’t rush to claim your device back How to Track and Locate Your iPhone Using Location Services You can track your iPhone and share or find its location using the iPhone Location Services feature. We show you how. Read More . Call the police, show them your tracking information, and ask them to help. Remember, a device isn’t worth dying for.

10. Two-Factor Authentication

Before your big trip, take the time to set up two-factor authentication What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different ways of proving your identity. It is commonly used in everyday life. For example paying with a credit card not only requires the card,... Read More (2FA) on your social media and email accounts. If you’re travelling for a while, between different locations with varying degrees of security and privacy, there is a chance that at some point, you’ll let your guard down.

2FA can be your backup in this situation.

Be Safe, Be Sound

Keeping track of your data doesn’t have to be a massive issue. Unfortunately, some countries are out to make this difficult. You can attempt to mitigate these problems but, quite simply, if someone wants your data, they’ll probably find a way.

Remember: nothing trumps physical access. In that sense, be safe, and be wary. And have fun!

Do you have any travel tips for our readers? How do you keep your data safe when you’re on the move? What are your go-to gadgets for travelling? Let us know your thoughts below!

Image Credits: Poravute Siriphiroon/Shutterstock

Related topics: Computer Security, Travel.

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  1. Mark Yates
    June 2, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    A couple of these are actually really bad advice. Creating those inaccurate files could actually alert the authorities even more that you're a risk and it does the very least at safeguarding client data or any data protected by your privacy policy.

    I completely disagree with that one. Also 2 FA is known to be very insecure when done over SMS with a code. If you're going to do this you need to use a different variant of it preferably that doesn't rely on communication to and or from your wireless carrier.

    Hackers have caught wind of this and have been easily cracking 2FA. I'm happy I read this before sharing it.

  2. Jody
    April 27, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Lovely! I actually used ExpressVPN when I was backpacking in Eastern Europe.