Lamont Wood: Top Travel Tips to Hack Proof Data, Devices

Written by Lamont Wood

Here’s our Lamont Wood with his top five tech travel tips to hack-proof your mobile devices and data. Being safe doesn’t make you paranoid. These tips are paramount. — You’re traveling. You’re vulnerable. And you’re vulnerable just because you’re traveling. Don’t make the mistake of letting your mobile data and devices be easy targets for hackers and data thieves. Here’s our Lamont Wood with his top five tech travel tips for hack-proofing your laptop, tablet, phone and all the data on all the above.

Before you begin securing your mobile devices and data, make sure you double-check that you’ve taken all the obvious and easy security measures. Ask yourself: Is your anti-virus software up-to-date? How’s that firewall? Make sure all software patches are up to snuff. And remember, there’s no substitute ever for a strong password. That means a combo of alphanumeric characters, marks like exclamation points and capital letters placed randomly. Now you’re ready for the rest of my top tech travel tips.

ONE: Don’t forget to disable file sharing and photo sharing on your mobile devices.

You shouldn’t have any sensitive data on your personal devices when you travel, anyway. But if you do, make sure you encrypt it. Encryption is key, no pun intended. And, hey, use that safe in your hotel room. You’ll never be sorry you did.

TWO: Forget Wi-Fi. Carry your Ethernet cable along.

It is always best to skip Wi-Fi when you travel with your laptop or other portable system. Just forget it. It is always better to use a direct connection via an Ethernet cable. Almost all hotels will have an Ethernet connection. Use it. It’s safer. And it’s faster. So turn off Wi-Fi. If you really need it at some point, just turn it back on and connect manually. When you’re traveling, never use the automatic Wi-Fi connection process.

And don’t even think about going online unless the Wi-Fi hot spot you’re looking at isn’t login protected — and encrypted, too. The dumbest hacker or data thief doesn’t need anything but a simple software tool to watch what you’re doing as long as he or she is in range. Would you input banking info on a white board in an airport lobby or coffee shop? Think about it.

Even login protected and encrypted Wi-Fi hot spots are risky if hackers are already lying in wait and logged in ahead of time. Take a look around you. Even someone just watching nearby can get at your passwords — yet another reason for a strong, complicated one.

And if you really insist on resisting my no-Wi-Fi-when-traveling rule, do show the opening screen to a clerk just to make sure the Wi-Fi network you’re logging into really belongs to it. Fake hot spots are everywhere. Don’t fall for that trick.

There’s always the option to look into another data plan, too. Cell phone networks are far more secure than are Wi-Fi networks. Always.

THREE: When you’re traveling, make a real effort only to use encrypted sites with the https prefix. If you go to a site and the “s” vanishes, put it back. And get off the site if you can’t do that. Your data is worth more real protection. Don’t sacrifice convenience for security.

FOUR: Ignore friends, family and coworkers who say you’re paranoid. You need to be and here’s why.

Hackers and data thieves prey on travelers for good reason. They’re on the road and slack about security measures. If you’ve got key data on your mobile device, consider leaving it at home. Ask your IT pro if you’re able to bring a spare, wiped one that has just the apps and data you need.

Also, make sure that, when you turn off your device you remove your battery, too. That will prevent anyone from sneakily setting up remote control. And when you get home, wipe the device clean again — or put it in your drawer until next time.

FIVE: Beware of key-loggers. Dodge them with this trick.

Anyone can easily slip a key-logger onto your device. There’s nothing to it. Keep your passwords in a file on a USB memory stick. When you need them, just use cut and paste to get them from USB to the app you need. Bingo. No keystrokes to load into a key-logger. And no passwords to risk. You might even go so far as to consider setting up multiple files with multiple possible fake passwords. Only you know the real ones.

There you have it — my five top tech travel tips for data and device security. You’ll never be sorry you did.

For, I’m Lamont Wood.

Based in San Antonio, Texas, Lamont Wood is a senior editor at He’s been covering tech trade and mainstream publications for almost three decades now, and he’s a household name in Hong Kong and China. His tech reporting has appeared in innumerable tech journals, including the original BYTE (est. 1975). Email Lamont at or follow him @LAMONTwood.