How to Protect Your Internet Connection While Traveling

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When you’re traveling it’s especially easy to fall victim to all kinds of theft, fraud and shenanigans when using seemingly trustworthy Wi-Fi hotspots.  What many people forget while traveling is that it’s incredibly easy for an attacker to set up a malicious hotspot that looks like a friendly official one belonging to a hotel, bar, cafe or restaurant.

“Just because A WI-FI HOTSPOT IS called Marriott FREE wi-fi doesn’t mean it actually is”

Malicious attackers know you love to connect to the free hotel Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby or coffee shop and they know what you’re expecting it to be named and they exploit that fact.  Social engineering is an attacker’s most powerful weapon, by leveraging what you expect to see and expect to happen an attacker can easily compromise your security.

Don’t assume hotel staff will save you either, because they won’t.  Hotel staff are too busy doing their day jobs to be concerned about your Internet security.  Most of the time hotel staff won’t notice fake hotspots created by a hacker sitting in their lobby.

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What hotspot hackers really look like. Notice the absence of a sinister black hoody!

Professional Digital Criminals

Contrary to popular belief “hotspot hackers” do not sit in dark corners wearing all black hoodies, the best of the best are masters of social engineering and they aren’t all pimply teenagers, they’re professional criminals wearing suits and designer clothing and they’re the new digital mafia.

Cyber-crime is the most lucrative, most difficult type of crime to detect and pursue and every organized crime group in the world is capitalizing on that fact.

When it comes to personal security you basically have two choices.  The first is to do what most people do and don’t even think about security.  The second is to not rely upon anyone but yourself and make sure you take the steps necessary to thwart attackers.

Attackers aren’t just stealing online identities, they’re targeting travelers email and social accounts to discover addresses of empty homes and they’re passing on these addresses not just for robbery but for electronic exploitation as well.  The burglar of the future is carrying a laptop and key-logging devices and selectively targeting wealthy individuals.

Identity theft can happen anywhere, whether you’re in an office, hotel or coffee shop or on the beach, it’s happening.  In 2017 6.64% of surveyed consumers reported being the victim of some type of identity theft.  That’s 1 in 15 people admitting to being a cyber-crime victim, up from 1 in 20 during 2016.

The amount of stolen data criminals have access to for exploitation is mind-boggling and it’s growing every day because most people and most authorities are clueless and don’t know how to respond to it or prevent it.  There’s only one way to have a chance of stopping it happening to you and that’s to take it personally and pay conscious attention to the way you go about connecting to the Internet and using your computers and devices.

Minimize Your Social Footprint

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Kill those apps and cull your social media addiction

If you don’t want to become a cyber-crime victim then it’s time to start becoming “digitally  frugal”, you can begin by wiping your phone and removing all those apps you really don’t need.

Delete those unnecessary social accounts that move you one step closer to becoming a dopamine addict pining and checking for a like every 10 seconds.  While you’re at it you can go ahead and cleanse the browser tabs on your desktop computer as well.

The more apps and social accounts you have the more vulnerable you are to manipulation and if your profiles are public then you’re even more vulnerable as a traveler.

The average Facebook user has 300 or so friends, yet the average American only has 6 to 9 “real friends” they trust.

How insane is it to give an average of 291 people you don’t really trust access to your life? Not to mention access for the entire world if your profile is public.

From a personal security standpoint I can tell you it’s absolutely crazy and without reservation I advise you to stop doing it right now and delete everyone you’ve never met personally or ever spoken to in a meaningful way on the phone.

Here’s another reason why you should do this, there’s mounting evidence to suggest that you’ll be physically and mentally healthier for becoming digitally frugal.  You’re also more  likely to have better quality relationships with your real friends.

THE AVERAGE FAKEBOOK USER HAS 300 “FAKE FRIENDS” THEY BARELY KNOW

If you want to socialize with strangers then reddit is the best place to do it. Create an anonymous account, don’t reveal who you are and discuss every topic you can imagine with some very smart people without worrying about dopamine likes and the consequences of becoming a dopamine addict.

Securing Your Internet Connection

The oldest trick in the Internet book is to fool someone into downloading Antimalware or Antivirus software which then contains malware itself but the same shenanigans are still going on with cheap or free VPN software and services that promise to secure your Internet connection.  Trust me on these four words “There is no free!”.

One way or another those so-called “free” VPN services get paid, they have to because there are  bills to pay and those bills get paid at your expense.

Here are some of the ways “free” VPN service providers get paid and what they do:

  • ID / Account Theft and Fraud
  • Front Organizations for Nation State Spying
  • Malware and Ad Injection
  • Selling your Internet Browsing Data
  • Stealing and Selling Your Data

A VPN is simply a tunnel that you and the provider of the VPN has access to.  A VPN does not mean safe and secure, but that’s the way it’s marketed to you.

“A VPN is simply a tunnel that you and the provider of the VPN has access to.  A VPN does not mean safe and secure but that’s the way it’s sold to you.”

Remember, there is no free!

Most VPN service providers are managed outside of the United States and they won’t hesitate to rip you off, steal your data and spy on you.  If you must use a VPN service then at least pick one that’s based in the country you reside in.

At least then you have some hope of recourse in the event you discover some illicit activity.

What’s Better than a VPN?

To protect your Internet connection while you’re traveling you need an SVPN that will provide completely secure private access to your home network, allowing you to use the Internet as if you were still at home.

An SVPN doesn’t just create a tunnel like a VPN service provider who controls and accesses everything you do, an SVPN gives only you full control of both ends of the tunnel.

SVPN – Better than a VPN

The benefits of using an SVPN far outweigh the risks of using a third-party VPN service. You can be certain nobody will sell your data, inject ads, spy on you, steal your identity or commit fraud.  You’re in full control.

You’ll also have access to everything that’s country restricted if you’re traveling abroad.  Netflix and many other services restrict access to content by country, so you’ll still be able to access your services without any problems.

With domestic travel an SVPN is the safest option for Internet access, hotel and public Wi-Fi connections cannot be trusted ever, they are constantly targeted by malicious actors.

The only way to have complete peace of mind that your connection is secure and private when traveling is by having complete control.

You should also consider using a password manager and enabling two factor authentication (2FA) whenever you’re able to do so, many services such as Gmail and online banking now support 2FA, it’s also referred to as multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Two of the best 2FA apps and services are Authy and LastPass authenticator.   Both these services allow you to backup your 2FA tokens so if you lose your device the access codes can easily be restored to a new device.  LastPass is also a great password manager that can help you generate and manage secure passwords.

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