After learning of recent government legislation allowing internet providers to erode our privacy (Verizon & AT&T have that door wide open here and here), and verified reports surrounding cellphone privacy rights during international travel, I began a ravenous search for ways to better protect my data, my phone, and my privacy. My phone is filled with client contacts, vital work-related logins and accounts, and my personal attitudes about the world we live in. My data needs to be safeguarded. I read several great articles (which you will find at the bottom as resources) and added several things to my “packing list.”
TRAVELING with DEVICES
(1) IMMIGRATION: First, I will preface this with, and advocate, that you should ALWAYS respect the rules if you want to avoid bringing attention to yourself. While moving through immigration, there are signs EVERYWHERE about cell phone use. DO NOT USE your phone, don’t take it out, don’t take pictures, and definitely don’t make phone calls. I have yet to see signs telling the public to call their families and take selfies while waiting in immigration. Doing such things will likely result in someone finding you suspicious, in or out of the USA, and encourage potential intrusion into your phone data.
- You are not required to give anyone your password key to unlock your phone, however it is possible immigration CAN request you use fingerprint technology to unlock your phone. Turning off a phone requires the actual pass-code to open it the first time it is used.
- Put passwords on data that is considered sensitive. I use NOTES on my iPhone to keep lists and hold data I need, like account numbers and password reminders (not the actual password). I can lock them down as well.
Because I store passwords in a locked note in case I need to log in to something while traveling, I use my own coding to help me remember what they are. I use an underscore _ to indicate the password had lower case letters, a # for numbers and I use the actual symbol (!,?, %, $,@) as needed. So, a password like “[email protected]” (see my article on smart passwords) would be noted as “p _# _ _ _ L @ ###” as a password hint (the P to remind of the word I used.)
- OneSafe: Use an app to lock down notes and files. I really like OneSafe. Listed as a password manager, it is really more than that. I can load files into it, take screenshots of my credit cards, passport, and ID cards, and hold work documents I may need to reference on an emergency. OneSafe even offers a decoy safe that shields the real content by setting up a fake safe and locking it with a fake password. It was worth the few dollars to get the premium version.
Although I would rather have the attitude that “I have nothing to hide” and therefore shouldn’t care much what my ISP knows about me, the deeper concern is that who I am, what I do, what apps I use, where I go, what products I use, where I shop, and who I communicate with, really shouldn’t be anyone’s business but my own. It is my choice what I share. To point out how it can be used:
I was once deposed in a lawsuit against a college I attended. The complainant’s lawyer wanted to suggest that I played a role in the former student’s failure because I “didn’t like her.” They pored over emails, copies of our business website, blog pages with personal perspectives, and text messages they pieced together from her old phone, to try and imply a belief system contrary to hers – none of which really proved anything other than the lawyer’s effort to intimidate me. Overall, it was her lack of dependability and respect for the program that kept me at a distance from her. Regardless, I got a glimpse of all the ways I am online, what people can see, and how my internet presence plays a role in how people see me.
So, as we move forward in our internet dance, while hackers, ransomware, and advertisers attempt to invest in our vulnerabilities, protecting our data should be a habit, not an afterthought.
SIGNAL: Since there is a lot of exchange between my immediate family and myself with sensitive data, I recently installed Signal, a messaging app that promises encryption, privacy, and security. Let’s think about the ways we move information (free airport wifi, use of Facebook Messenger or your messaging app, a backdoor on WhatsApp that hasn’t been fixed, free hotel lobby computers!):
- “What was the code to the house?”
- “Honey, I was checking on that bill and forgot the password.”
- “Where are we meeting?”
- “I needed your social for the beneficiary form…”
Now imagine that data moving over internet waves: open and potentially harvested.
Signal allows for safe transition of images and messages while traveling abroad. I can even make internet calls through the app. The challenge – getting friends and family to use the app too. I reminded my friends that “friends don’t let friends message unencrypted!” The app is stable, and came recommended by numerous tech guru sites. You can get it here.
DuckDuckGo: A Non-tracking Search Engine! Why? Because now your search history, tied to your Google, Yahoo, AOL, or Bing search engines, is SOLD for your advertisement pleasure! And as our government dissolves internet privacy rights for the consumer, efforts to keep that from happening are few and far between. (YES, you should be alarmed by this, and care about YOUR data!)
I first discovered DuckDuckGo as an added “search engine option” on my Chrome browser. I thought it strange, but quickly bypassed it. As legislation has been changing I discovered it again, but this time as a tool that allows me continued control of MY searches, surfing, and purchasing history. DuckDuckGo does NOT sell my search history! They don’t leave tracking data! They don’t store my personal information! They don’t follow a user around with ads linked to their searches! AND they offer CLEAN searches, not influenced by top payers of the internet world. They don’t bias search results. Use it to purchase your travel tickets and while doing travel research. Since cookies are not kept, travel services can’t “Up the Ante” on the “rock bottom” prices once you have timed out on your decision making. You will find surfing the web a much cleaner experience. For me, I am happy to know my search isn’t influenced by what the search engine has been paid to show me first!
Here are some articles to keep you informed.
- Six Foolproof Methods to Protect your Smart Devices – Great article
- Congress Moves to Strike Internet Privacy Rules – NYTimes Article
- Five Creepy Things Your ISP CAN Do Since Congress Repealed the FCC’s Privacy Protections – Electronic Frontier Foundation Article – I retitled it since it’s not about what could happen anymore, but what Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are happily moving to do!
- An Update on Verizon’s AppFlash: Pre-Installed Spyware Is Still Spyware – Electronic Frontier Foundation