Travel tech security tips

Travel tech security tips

Summary: Whether you like holidaying with your gadgets or you're required to travel for work, there's going to come a time when you have to consider the safety of your gear, or the data it holds.


Prevention, a dose of common sense and a good response plan are your first lines of defence against device or data loss, but a few good tools and some safety gear won't go astray.

Read on to hear about some of the dangers you may come across when you travel, and for tips on how to protect yourself and your gear from loss, theft, and damage.

Dangers to be aware of

Losing or breaking something, or worse, having it stolen while on your trip is easier than you think. It can happen faster than you can say "airport."

In the past few years, travellers have seen luggage theft rise by as much as 50 percent — and that's if your cargo even makes it to the carousel. According to a recent report, up to 200 bags are being rifled through each day in the belly of the plane by staff at JFK airport!

Phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, and other portable devices are at the most risk. They're small and easily lifted from a bag or person, they usually return quick cash for an enterprising thief, and, of most concern, they carry information that's private or sensitive.

For instance, smartphones are likely to have apps, such as your email or notes apps, that contain details of other services, passwords, or even blatant log-in information — depending on how cautious you are. If someone were to gain access to this information and your credit card simultaneously, there could be trouble. Or the thieves could be after enough information to be able to steal your identity.

aeroplane sign
(Beware sign 2 image by Kriss Szkurlatowski, royalty free)

Imagine turning up to a country for a holiday, only to be barred from entering, or worse, getting arrested because of a crime committed using your identity.

The ease with which your identity can be stolen and used to incur outrageous debts is disturbing. It might not be information stolen from a device; it could be a keystroke reader on a public computer, insecure Wi-Fi in a cafe, or a fake booking site. There are a number of ways that thieves can whisk away your details.

Unfortunately, it's not only hardened criminals that you need to protect your data from. Many governments use the limbo status of international airports to stretch the limits of their stop-and-search powers to breaking point. You may be politically outspoken, or work for an organisation that has entrusted you to carry some very sensitive information. Whichever scenario fits your situation, it's fair to say that you want to keep your private data just that: private.

Of course, device loss doesn't have to be malicious. Globally, 25.8 million bags were "mishandled" (lost or misdirected) in 2011 — that's nearly one in every 100 travellers.

Topics: Travel Tech, Security

Irene Mickaiel

About Irene Mickaiel

Irene is product manager in Australia for CBS Interactive sites such as CNET Australia, GameSpot,, ZDNet and TechRepublic. Before Irene became hooked on IT media, she worked on illustrated reference, lifestyle and education books.

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  • Interesting Article...

    Not every single item applies to every single person, but it is a good reminder to be vigilant. I would also say that flying first class can help avoid many of these issues as well. You usually get a separate lounge to wait in and on many flights are in a completely different part of the cabin than others. The chances of a thief paying for a first class ticket is a lot less likely.

    The one item that I disagree with is "Regularly back up your memory cards to USB drives or DVDs, and mail a copy home."
    You should use an online photo service that will let you redownload full resolution images (SmugMug is a great one) and backup nightly to it (yes, using public WiFi if necessary). This avoids the possibility of the mail getting lost or stolen.
  • Backup to cloud or disc

    That's a fair point and a very good idea. Of course, I have been in many towns in poorer countries where finding a computer with Internet is one thing, but uploading even a single high-res image is unthinkable.

    Oh how I wish I could add flying first class to my preventative steps ha!