The more we have travelled over the last 20+ years, the use of digital gadgets has increased dramatically.

In 2002 we had our first cell phone, a little Nokia which could do all of 4 things – make and receive calls and make and receive SMSes; no WhatsApp, no camera, no Facebook, no email etc. Now we have all of those, plus all sorts of other apps, available on every phone which most of us don’t use and many of us do not even understand. The latest is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and with it, Chatbot. It is almost as if, when I pick up my phone or Tablet it knows, before I do, why I picked it up. Of course, being a Senior Citizen, that should not be so surprising.

When travelling locally we take our laptops, phones end even the portable router. In fact, we still have a landline which is linked to what is known as a Look-a-like instrument that does look just like a regular dial telephone but has a Sim card, so it is also a cell phone. It also has a Wi-Fi link. We have even taken that on holiday within in our province and received calls while 300kms away from home. That has resulted in exclamations of surprise from a caller or two. Travelling internationally is a bit different as we are on holiday and if called it becomes quite expensive. Carrying laptops and the other phone is not practical. We take only our phones with only one having Facebook and being registered for international roaming. Also, every digital item requires its own charger so those take up space and add some weight.

Now, protection of data when travelling has grown into a major issue. We have all heard of cybercrime and hacking and the more one uses apps and puts personal information ‘out there’ the more chance of being hacked. In the Sunday Tribune of 21 April 2024 there was this article, “5 tips on how to protect your digital identity and data.” It spoke specifically about travelling and the challenges of safeguarding your data” by Zamandosi Cele. Some are completely new ideas while others are, ones we know about but, haven’t thought of doing before. “According to Earthweb’s, Trevor Cooke, online privacy expert, protecting your digital identity when you travel is important.” Before connecting to foreign Wi-Fi networks and/or swapping SIM cards, make sure that it is safe to do so.

  1. Invest in a VPN

Never heard of it? No, nor had I. It stands for Virtual Private Network and is a plug-in on your device. It encrypts your internet connection, shields your data from prying eyes and, also, allows you to bypass geo-restrictions giving access to your favourite shows and movies regardless of your location. There is a monthly subscription fee but the experts believe that this outweighs the potential cost of data breaches and identity theft.

  1. Backup data before leaving home.

In busy tourist areas or towns known to be active with petty crime such as pickpocketing, electronic devices are particularly popular. To protect your valuable data, whether or not you will need the information while on holiday, ensure that it is securely backed up on devices you will leave at home. Also, do regular backups to a cloud storage while you are travelling. This way if your device is stolen or lost you won’t lose any data, photos or any other important information.

  1. Two-factor authentication

This does require an extra step to access your accounts but, it is invaluable against cybercriminals. Cooke says to think of it as an extra lock on a door, a key and a bolt. This will ensure seamless access to all your security features while abroad. If you plan to swap out your SIM card in another country, you will have to update your phone number with the 2FA or you could get locked out.

  1. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

It may be convenient to leave these on, but it does make you vulnerable to cyberattacks. “Sometimes, Bluetooth attacks come in the form of cybercriminals sending things to your device from spam adverts to malware.” Then there is ‘Bluesnarfing’.  This involves attackers taking data from your device and using the information to hack into your accounts. Further, cybercriminals have also found ways to create a backdoor into accounts called ‘Bluebugging,’ From this information, you can see why it is best to keep Bluetooth off except for when you wish to use it yourself. Similarly, attacks can be made using open Wi-Fi networks so it is advisable to switch off both of these when not in use.

  1. Use the hotel safety facilities!

These days every hotel room has a safe and the guest creates a unique code for the duration of their stay. Most staff are honest and reliable but there are people known as door pushers who wander down a corridor checking every door to find one unlocked.

A final reminder is to remove any record of your passwords from any device which you take on your holiday. Record them somewhere at home but it helps to let your next of kin know where to find them should something happen to you.

Travel safe and you will travel happy!