Travel Advisory: Data Security = Identity Protection?

“Data security” sounds techie; try “identity theft” if you want appropriate attention

“Data Security” is one of the most undervalued and least communicated dangers of travel. I am regularly met with “you are paranoid and overreacting.”  Say that to someone who has been accused for leaking confidential secrets, when all they did was walk through a biometric scanner with their phone on.

It was simple on social media when somebody posted that they were “heading off on a holiday” or “gee I hope the garden doesn’t die over the next 2 weeks”. This was when everyone was a “friend” on Facebook and a friend of a friend of a friend saw that you would be leaving your house unattended and helped themselves to your electronics.

Can you imagine doing that now? No, because you “understand” the risks.

Now problems may await  if travelers have a social media feed which may be a little bit less than generous to a host nation. Given some destinations can jail you for “crimes against the state” based on an inflammatory remark, remove any negative connotation about said countries prior to trying to clear customs.

In some airports, part of the process is to cross reference a flight manifest against facebook feed against key words. Which in turn might lead to something which “may invite penal ramifications”  – the sign at Mumbai airport for those who crack the wrong joke.  Some countries are now archiving hundreds of millions of social media feeds.  If you plan on travel, don’t say anything nasty about countries you plan to go back to.

The biggest danger is the theft of digital information leading to identity theft whilst traveling.

Australia is very protective about the technology required to scan hardware on your person, but in some countries, security is lax or literally, its just what they do when you walk past a scanner. An open Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection, poor password management , a digital scan of your passport…land in that foreign country, with zero cash in accounts with customs officials calling for backup …

Because it’s invisible, digital safety is something that most people don’t truly appreciate until its way, way too late.

What should a responsible “Travel Advisor” suggest for their pax before travel?

  • Don’t publicise where you are going and when
  • Cleanup that social media trail
  • Remove any remotely close to offensive material from laptops, phones and hard drives
  • Feeling paranoid? back up all of your data to the cloud, clean your mobile phone back to Vanilla, and download your profile when you land

The day will come when an “advisor” is sued for not telling someone to 128 bit encrypt their data before passing through….

 Data has value.  Like a passport wallet, people will try and steal it.



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