Connect with care when travelling

01:50, May 11 2012
Travelling tech
LOCKDOWN: Travel safely with your tech, for your own sake and everyone else's

You really, really have to connect to the internet to do something important. This is risky on an unknown network, so what can you do to keep the baddies out?

Adam Boileau of security consultancy Insomnia Security says the idea is to make it as inconvenient and slow as possible to get to your data, so that people will move to easier targets.

If you have to access important information, bring your own device that you have secured. If that's not possible, Boileau says only use internet cafes if you're desperate. Boileau describes internet cafe use as going to a brothel; even with protection, you'll worry afterwards that you caught something.

Bringing your own programmes on a USB stick such as the free collection is a good start if you have to use an internet cafe, Boileau says. Better yet, enable two-factor authentication for your Gmail and Google Account.

This adds a second step to verify your identity by asking you to enter a random, changeable code as well as password. The code is sent via SMS or a recorded voice message and it's not possible to log in without it.

Since password and user name reminders for other services are sent via email, keeping it secure is very important. Two-factor authentication is found on the Google Accounts overview page and it's easy to set up with your mobile handy.


In your Gmail settings, look for the browser connection field and click on "Always use HTTPS". This means the hypertext transfer protocol "language" that your browser uses will always be in secure, encrypted mode when you go to Gmail.


You've decided to bring your own stuff, but before you connect those updated devices of yours with encrypted storage and defences such an anti-virus and a firewall running to the hotel free wi-fi, take some further precautions.

Continue the HTTPS theme: laptop users with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers can kick it up a notch with Electronic Frontier Foundation's HTTPS Everywhere plug-in which encrypts as much web traffic as possible.

You should be fairly safe by now, but if you want to take it further use a virtual private network or VPN. This software creates a strongly encrypted tunnel from your computer to another network of your choosing. It's great for when you use free or public wi-fi as nobody can then see your traffic and tamper with it.

VPNs used to be difficult to set up but nowadays, a provider such as Tunnelbear makes it simple and cheap and there's even an iPad app available. You end up trusting one tunnel provider instead of worrying about hundreds of wi-fi hotspots which makes life much easier.

By now, you'll be a tough nut to crack for baddies. "With my own device, two-factor authentication and a VPN, I'd be comfortable doing internet banking even," Boileau says.


Social media can make travelling a richer experience, but some care is warranted. First, turn off the location features in Facebook, Twitter and web browsers, and don't check in with FourSquare and similar services.

Burglars use social media too but you may also want to keep your location overseas hidden from prying eyes there in case you offend anyone.

Never, ever attempt to crack a joke on social media about anything sensitive relating to the US - that's pretty much everything by the way. The Department of Homeland Security won't think it is funny and might deport you or throw you into Gitmo to rot. This goes for a raft of other countries, too, so save those racy, religious and political quips and complaints for later.


Finally, remember that travel means you could be uncontactable for several days if something happens, aboard a plane or out of mobile phone coverage.

During that time, an awful lot can happen like your bank account being raided and social media accounts being abused to send out hideous spam and malware to your friends - and you won't even know it.

Be prepared and travel safely, for your own sake and everyone else's.


-Sydney Morning Herald