Technology Tips for Traveling Abroad: How to Stay Safe & Connected

When you're preparing for a trip, it's much easier to focus on finding ways to keep in touch than worry about keeping your data safe. However, as important as it is to stay connected when traveling abroad, cyber security for travelers is just as essential. A cyber-savvy traveler knows that protecting yourself begins even before you depart your home, and continues throughout your entire trip.

There are a few simple steps to stay connected when traveling abroad while keeping cyber security in mind. These tips will help keep your information secure so you can focus on rest, relaxation, and an unforgettable adventure.

Take foundational safety precautions

Solid cyber security for travelers starts before you even pack your bags.

First, it's important to make a backup of all the devices you'll be taking with you; if your device is lost, stolen, or breached, you can be certain you have alternative access to your files. You may also want to create stronger, more secure passwords both to log in to your devices as well as for important accounts, such as apps that reveal banking details. If you're able to remove sensitive data from your phone, consider doing so as well.

Next, before you depart, check for software updates in your system settings, and confirm your anti-virus software is up to date.

It's also important to remember that once you're en route, keep your devices in your view at all times, especially in busy locations such as airports, hotels and restaurants. Be wary of charging stations at airports as fraudsters can install modified USB sockets into airport charging stations, which can compromise your information. To protect yourself if you need to use a public charging station, you should connect a USB data blocker or power-only USB cable to your phone. Throughout your entire vacation, remain vigilant that no one is spying on you as you use your device—you can even consider using a privacy screen on your computer or phone to restrict visibility. 

Help to keep your finances safe

Our financial lives are increasingly digital, both at home and when we're away. That's why it's important to make sure you keep your financial information, as well as your money, safe while you're abroad. Technology that allows you to temporarily lock your debit or credit card, such as PNC Easy Lock®, can enable you to lock your account if you misplace your card1. This ensures no new purchases, cash advances or withdrawals are made while your card is locked. You can unlock your card at the push of a button as well, allowing for control over your card in real time. misplace or lose your card. You can also unlock your card at the push of a button as well, making it safe and easy to keep your money secure wherever you are. 

If you choose to use cash, make sure you're not carrying more than you need at any given time. This can help prevent you from losing a larger sum of money than you would if you had less money at the time. Also do your best to stay vigilant by keeping your wallet, purse, or backpack away from places that can be easily accessed by others.

Avoid the pitfalls of free WiFi

Free WiFi can be an alluring option for travelers looking to stay connected. Although these networks might seem like the best and least expensive option when you're on the road, they pose major security threats to some of your most sensitive information.

It's easy for cybercriminals to spoof a WiFi network and make it look like a legitimate connection. Fraudsters can set up a free WiFi network within seconds and give it a name that appears above board. In other cases, there may be several networks available with the same name—some being password-protected and others being password-free. People who are in need of a fast and easy way to connect may not consider that a WiFi network isn't verified, or notice a registration screen that asks for sensitive information.

If a free WiFi network seems too good to be true, it probably is. Even most cafes that offer customers free WiFi still have networks that are password protected. Connecting to a network with no password protections may leave you and your sensitive information at risk. Fraudulent WiFi networks can snoop on the sites you visit, survey the information you enter, and access passwords with ease. 

If you're in need of WiFi on the go and can't buy a pay-as-you-go plan, consider purchasing a short-term subscription to a legitimate WiFi provider. Companies in large cities usually operate paid internet plans that charge by the hour, day, or week. Prices and availability vary, but they're a much safer option than risking it with a public network. Alternatively, you can explore local pay-as-you-go options to stay connected while traveling.

Stay safe with a VPN

Whether you're using a local pay-as-you-go SIM card, secure public WiFi subscriptions, or even hotel-provided WiFi, it's crucial to use a reliable and well-reviewed Virtual Public Network (VPN) service wherever you go. 

VPNs can help create a layer of security between the network you're connected to and the data you transmit. For example, if you were to connect to your hotel's WiFi network, there's a potential risk that they could monitor your usernames, passwords, and the sites you visit while connected. A VPN reroutes this information to one of their third-party networks, which keeps sensitive information out of the hands of the original source of your internet connection.

When traveling abroad, a good VPN network helps you make sure you're safe no matter what kind of connectivity you opt for—be it a hotel or cafe network or even a subscription-based public WiFi network. Plus, most VPNs provide you with an option to connect to a domestic server, which may make it easier for you to connect to U.S.-based websites and digital services.

Reputable VPNs are easy to find and are competitively priced, especially when compared to the costs associated with identity theft and fraud. You can even buy monthly or yearly subscriptions to a VPN provider if need be.  

Staying connected safely while traveling

The risk of having your identity compromised is certainly amplified when you're away from home. Thankfully, cyber security for travelers doesn't have to be difficult: you can protect yourself and financial wellbeing without sacrificing your connectivity in the process.

With a little bit of forethought and a good amount of digital vigilance, you can put yourself in an ideal position to stay safe and while solving how to stay connected while traveling abroad. Each of these benefits can help you travel with confidence.