A travel expert reveals what you need to know about phone security

Whether you travel frequently for work or just hop across town to the local coffee shop, we all use our phones on the go. As any seasoned traveler can tell you, it can be hard to stay on top of your stuff (whether that includes a purse, backpack, kids, luggage, pets, etc.) as you go to and fro. But what about what’s on our phones? With so many sensitive data apps now on them, we literally can’t afford to be careless with them or our data safety. Simply put, proper phone security now can save you a huge headache later.

We reached out to Zach Griff, Travel Analyst for The Points Guy, to get his top five tips for phone security. Whether you’re traveling in the U.S., internationally or just around the corner, these pointers will help you keep your data more secure. 

“An ounce of prevention is

worth a pound of cure.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Use this list and check it twice

Whether you’re taking a quick road trip or a cross-country flight, going to new places can take you out of your routine and into unfamiliar situations. Griff gave us these helpful suggestions for maintaining good phone security practices so you can enjoy trouble-free travel wherever you go. 

Have a passcode, Face ID or Touch ID 

Griff’s number one piece of advice was to make sure to have a passcode, Face ID or Touch ID on your phone. If this sounds like a no-brainer, then you are in the minority. According to a 2018 study by Kaspersky Lab, “less than half (48%) of people password-protect their mobile devices.” 

Passcode: What makes a strong passcode? A random string of numbers is best. Avoid repeating or sequential numbers, such as “111111” or “123456.” And definitely steer clear of easily accessed personal info, such as your birthday. 

Face ID: Don’t rely on Face ID to fully protect your phone. Face ID’s breakthrough technology is great for accessing your phone quickly, but even Apple’s Face ID Security Guide states “Face ID doesn’t replace your passcode.” 

Touch ID: Apple iPhone X and above don’t have the home button, so Touch ID is not an option. And with good reason: Apple’s Face ID is 20 times more secure than Touch ID. However, if you are using an older model iPhone or an Android phone with fingerprint sensor technology, make sure to still utilize that extra layer of phone security. 

Connect to a VPN

Make use of a virtual private network (VPN) whenever possible, especially when using a public Wi-Fi network. If you bank, shop or use social media, a VPN is a necessity. Just that one extra step will greatly enhance your phone security. 

VPNs are supremely essential when traveling internationally. On the frivolous side, you can use a VPN if you want to keep up on your TV shows while abroad. But on the off-chance you’ll be traveling to a more restrictive country, like Russia or China, keep in mind you may have to deal with internet censorship. Since 2017, both Russian and Chinese governments have been trying to block VPNs. Why? Because they allow their citizens to access government-censored content. 

Back up your data

Plan ahead and keep a backup of your data in case something goes wrong. If you’re forced to replace your phone when you get home, you will be happy that you still have all 500 photos of Fluffy. Plus, you’ll save yourself some serious set-up time on a new phone. 

How do you make sure you’re backing up your data? iPhone users can check that iCloud Backup is turned on in the Settings app under iCloud (and while you’re at it, make sure the “Find My iPhone” setting is turned on too). Be aware that your phone comes with 5 GB of free iCloud storage for your data. Or you can pay one dollar per month for 10 times that amount. Find detailed instructions on backing up data here.

Android users can work with Google systems to back up photos and files. There is also a setting for automatic backup in the Settings app. Read full Android instructions here

The best part is, if your data is backed up, you can easily download it to a new device. New phones will walk you through the process step-by-step, or you can always ask the representative at your local cellphone store to help you out. 

Download Google Maps for offline use 

Make sure to have any maps you may need downloaded to your phone. Google Maps let you easily download and save multiple maps for up to 30 days. This function will come in extremely handy if you are in an unfamiliar location and out range for internet connectivity. 

It’s easy to download maps on Android or iPhone. While connected to the internet (note: this will use data if not connected to Wi-Fi), open the Google Maps app on your phone and enter your destination (this can be a specific address or a city). Hit Download at the bottom right corner of the screen. To access your saved maps later, click on the menu bar (the three lines in the top left corner), and select “offline maps.”

Beware of AirDrop 

For additional phone security, be especially cautious of using AirDrop on your Apple devices. Make sure it’s either turned off or set to receive from your trusted contacts only. To do this, go to Settings, select General, and then AirDrop to select “Contacts Only.”

Android’s Beam function, in which you can bump cellphones together to transfer data, is less likely to be used without the other party’s consent. Both users have to set up their phones to transfer and receive data, in addition to physically tapping the devices together. 

One last thing

Last but not least, keep general safety tips in mind when traveling. One of the best paths to phone security is to avoid losing it or having it stolen. Bookbags and back pockets are common thief magnets. Keep your personal belongings close to you and always stay aware of your surroundings. 

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