Cyber security is on everyone's minds these days, and travelers in particular can be vulnerable when they are on public wifi networks.
Even in your own hometown, every time you login to your local coffee shop's network or restaurant hotspot to do your online banking, pay a bill, do some online shopping or even access apps and entertainment, you open yourself up to all kinds of data breaching or even theft.
When you're traveling, public hotel or cruise ship wifi networks are not as private as you may think. And outside your hotel, you may be even more exposed, especially in another country with fewer consumer legal protections.
A VPN is your best bet for digital safety – plus, when you travel, using a VPN can give you some added perks, like maintaining access to your favorite apps, social media, and online TV programs while you're away.
What is a VPN?
The letters stand for: Virtual Private Network. It's software that:
- encrypts your internet traffic and
- hides your online identity and address.
When you use a VPN, it redirects your internet traffic through a remote server from the VPN, protecting the information you send and receive, and thwarting those who may try to steal your data, or copy your passwords, or track your activities online.
Why do you need a VPN especially when you travel?
Keeping your information secure and your online activity private is a good thing whether you go around the corner, or around the world.
But when you travel, a VPN helps you in more ways:
· Bypass country restrictions on certain web sites.
o Access your own country sites for search results on Google or Amazon or entertainment (movie) streaming sites so you can continue to watch your shows while you're traveling even if they are not available in the country you're visiting.
o Some countries censor the internet and block popular social media sites altogether; a VPN might be your only way to get on while you're visiting certain countries.
o Avoid getting messages like 'this content is not available in your country' – you can route through the country the content is available in!
· Avoid getting locked out of a site where you make financial transactions.
o Some financial transaction sites have their own security measures that 'notice' that your account is being accessed from a country that isn't the country listed in your account profile, and in an excess of caution in case you might have been hacked, simply lock you out of the account. You can imagine what a hassle that is to fix. A VPN lets you pick your global location, so you can choose to route through your home country, which doesn't raise any red flags with those sites. Plus, while you're accessing those sensitive financial sites away from home, your data stays secure.
Tips for Picking and Using a VPN
Do some online research to find the best VPN for you, looking at different features, prices, and reviews of VPN services:
- Security. The best VPN's protect your private information even from themselves, with a strict policy of not logging your activity and two layers of security.
- Speed. Using VPN slows down your connection because it routes it through an additional layer; choose one with the best speeds.
- Coverage for all your devices. You'll want your laptop, phone and tablet all protected, so you'll need the VPN service that works for them all, apple or android or a combination.
- Permitted use with entertainment streaming sites you use. (Example, VPN's don't all work to access different countries' Netflix).
- Reliability and Worldwide Servers that ensure global coverage. If your connection isn't working well, you can change it to a server where it's strong.
- Free testing period. So you can make sure it's the right VPN for you.
You're smart about all the other ways you need to protect yourself while traveling, make sure you protect yourself online, too.
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