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Recently, I was thinking about a vacation trip that I am planning and, being the security guy that I am, I thought about security, of course. I have travelled to a lot of countries on a few continents and I have developed some steps that I take when I travel.
- Know your destination: Check travel.gc.ca for travel advisories for your destination and do not ignore them. Also do a quick Google search for any current events at your destination that might not have made it to a travel advisory status. Also, note that some countries do not respect personal privacy as much as others so be sure to read point #3 below!
- Plan your packing: make sure your suitcase and carry on are cleaned out and you remove anything that might raise any alarms (e.g., pocket knives, notebooks with content you do not want to share with just anybody, liquids, etc.). Remember, even checked bags can be searched. Also, remove valuables from checked bags.
- Clean your electronics: In today’s world, you can be required to unlock your cell phone or tablet so that border security agents can search them for content that might concern or interest them. Clean out SMS/text messages, emails, photos, and remember that your Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat apps may be accessible during a search as well (I recommend just deleting these apps and re-adding them once you land at your destination). You should also check any notes apps on your device and make sure it does not contain passwords, personal notes, etc. I also tend to not take a laptop with any personal or sensitive data on it to a foreign country – if I am traveling for work then I prefer to take a second “clean” laptop instead. Oh, and I never announce on Facebook, etc., that I am going to be away from home – it is a great way to let would-be thieves know that your residence is not occupied.
- Hotel safety: I always assume that anything I leave in a hotel room might be either looked at or even possibly stolen so I keep my passport and other critical documents and items on my person at all time and I always lock my suitcases when I leave my room and I leave nothing valuable or confidential laying around. The in room safe (if available) may be a safe option for storage but that varies by safe type and location. Also, I either bring my own personal wireless network device with me (a secure one with a firewall built in) or I use a VPN when I connect to hotel WiFi. Hotel WiFi is like swimming in a public pool – you are in there with everyone else and you never know if it is truly safe. It is also easy for a would-be hacker to “spoof” a hotel WiFi so you may be connecting to someone else’s wireless network and not the hotel’s.
It sounds like a lot, but once you establish security habits for safe travel then it will become second nature.