We rely on our phones a lot when travelling, whether it is to take photos, call a friend, use Google Maps, or currency conversion apps like YouTrip. However, our phones can expose us to many risks, especially when we are travelling in a country where we aren’t sure about the cybersecurity safeguards in place.
Just think about it. Tech is so integrated in our lives that our phones can give access to our bank and government accounts. Yikes! Thus, protecting your phone is important, so that even when your physical device ends up in the wrong hands, you don’t end up being a victim of data, or worse, identity theft. Here are 10 easy ways to protect your phone while on vacay.
1. Avoid public Wi-Fi
Accessing a public Wi-Fi network without encryption might be fuss-free, cheap and convenient. However, as easily as you connect to the network, other people can also infiltrate your phone.
In addition, can you be sure that it’s a legit public Wi-Fi network? It’s easy to get suckered into accessing a phishing site made up to look like the network of a well-known Wi-Fi service provider, especially if you’re in a rush or unfamiliar with the country’s digital infrastructure.
It’s more secure to log onto a major hotel’s password-protection network, with all the necessary encryption in place — remember to check the domain name twice!
2. Make duplicates of your data and back up to a cloud
Aiyo, this is common sense whether you’re travelling or not. These days, we’re changing our mobile phones more frequently than ever. It’s a good idea to ensure your data (read: precious photos and videos) are backed up to a cloud, AND also stored in a physical micro SD card or hard disk.
When travelling, there are also more uncertainties. You could drop your phone, or get caught in some extreme weather abroad that your phone can’t deal with the temperatures. Having duplicates of your data just provides peace of mind.
And, should you be so unlucky as to lose your phone overseas or have it stolen from your grasp during your #OOTD, you can set the lost device to automatically erase all your data (yes, it’s possible, except for perhaps, the micro SD card). With the cloud backup, you don’t have to worry as you’ll still have everything intact.
3. Use multiple devices
It might sound counterintuitive to bring multiple devices overseas with you. After all, it’s one more item to look after, but a spare phone can actually be really useful in case your main device conks out halfway or gets lost/stolen.
You can also use the spare phone as your personal Wi-Fi hotspot (better security!), or even designate this as your main overseas phone and keep it as clean of personal data as possible to lower the risk of data theft.
Another device on hand could also mean you have the flexibility to connect to a different mobile carrier, use it to track your other devices, or even as additional storage if you tend to fill up 1GB of space a day with travel pic spam.
4. Turn off Bluetooth connections
Is your phone automatically on the prowl for nearby Bluetooth connections and keeps prompting you to enable its digital rendezvous? You’ve gotta put a stop to that, especially when you’re on holiday.
Yes — it’s become a habit to leave your Bluetooth turned on. You need it for Trace Together, to connect your phone to your headset while having a walking meeting or when taking a call in the car; you use it for playing music at home, and to wirelessly print that PDF file your colleague sent through WhatsApp.
But make sure you at least switch your Bluetooth off when on vacation. If you forgot to set a password, someone might be trying to connect to your phone and worm their way digitally into your device. In addition, Bluetooth saps precious battery, so don’t encourage that drain when overseas
5. Use HTTPS websites
HTTPS stands for “hypertext transfer protocol secure”. If that jargon just flew past your eyes without you registering, just take note of the last word, “secure”. Compared to a normal URL, which typically begins with HTTP, the addition of “S” means that the network is secure with encryption.
That’s why websites such as an online store’s payment page, your online bank account or other sites that deal with sensitive data use HTTPS.
Do keep your eyes peeled for the tell-tale “closed padlock” logo and HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. If they’re not there, there should be alarm bells ringing in your head…the website might not be secure, or might be fake.
6. Use a VPN
VPN stands for virtual private network. Basically, a VPN is like a disguise your device wears over its actual IP address. With this, the network provider, websites and even hackers find it difficult to “see” your actual online identity. This is like a cloak of anonymity, that allows you to move through the internet securely.
Adding on to the first point on avoiding public Wi-Fi, if you have to use such an open network, getting on it via a VPN would provide a layer of protection. It acts like a barrier, stopping hackers from intercepting the data you send and receive via the public Wi-Fi connection.
7. Use a phone tracker, or any device tracker
If you’re always travelling with multiple devices or have a habit of misplacing your things, consider installing a phone or device tracker on your tech. This way, it’s easier to locate your stuff if you encounter theft while being distracted by new sights and sounds during your travels.
8. Two-factor authentication
Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) on your devices, accounts and sensitive apps is a no-brainer as it’s a double layer of security. It’s shocking; Google found that almost 1 in 4 people in America used a weak password that goes something like “Qwerty”, “123456” and even “Password”. Confirm kena hack la!
So don’t be lazy, make your password strong and double the protection with 2FA (and never share your 2FA code). You should be familiar with it by now — an additional passcode is sent via text message to your mobile phone, you might have a physical token that generates a security key, or a digital app that acts as the authenticator.
9. Check sensitive accounts regularly
Speaking of which, make it a point to check those sensitive 2FA accounts regularly. For example, always make sure your bank balance and credit card statement tallies with what you actually spent. There have been reports of hackers stealing small amounts of money at a time, thus going undetected for a long time.
Likewise, check your other sensitive accounts regularly for signs of suspicious activity. It’s better to be kiasu than to be sorry. And make sure you log out of the account immediately after use, and clear your cache after making sensitive transactions.
10. Install specific app locks (Norton)
Did you know that there’s a way to lock specific apps on your phone? This is especially useful for apps that have zilch passcode security (like WhatsApp, your camera or even Facebook).
One such security app is Norton App Lock by the digital security specialist, which enables the user to lock one or more apps and protect their private data with a 4-digit PIN. Other than keeping your privacy intact and data safe from prying eyes, it might even save you from paying exorbitant roaming charges if you accidentally “butt dial” someone while overseas.
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