Using A VPN When You Travel
Here's how I'm protecting my computer and myself - online and around the world.
Since I made the transition from traveler to travel blogger, not much has changed in my travel style. I'm still catching early morning flights to save money, still searching for online coupon codes, still going to free museums. And I'm still trying to squeeze in as much as I can on every trip, with early morning cafe visits and late night bookstore stops. The only real difference is that I'm working while I'm doing it and that means a never ending, insatiable need for Wi-Fi.
Technology doesn't come naturally to me (remember I'm still the girl who needs paper maps!) so for years the only thing I cared about when it came to Wi-Fi was that I could find it. I never gave a second thought to online security. I just cared that I could get online! Besides, who would ever care about hacking little 'ol me, with a hard drive full of pet photos and a credit card that's always jammed with airline tickets?
What could possibly go wrong?
Trying to find Wi-Fi all around the world
But I'm not quite so innocent and naive any more. No, nothing bad happened, but I'm now realizing just how lucky I've been. I have a new computer (I call her Agness) and it's an investment I don't take lightly. Agness has her own stylish pouch - made of protective silver foam. She has a dashing side kick in the form of an external hard drive, where I'm proud to say things have been regularly backed up. And in the process of learning how to keep Agness safe and keep me working round the clock, I've discovered just how risky public Wi-Fi can be.
Keeping Agness The PC (and her friends) safe
I always assumed that I was safe from online threats, well, because I wasn't rich and I didn't exactly have anything juicy on my computer. No state secrets or scintilating photos! I rarely do any online shopping and I don't think there's anything particularly 'hack' worthy about me. But I've learned that it's not just the professional hackers you have to worry about. They're just after cold hard cash (sorry guys, got the wrong gal here!) But the amateur hackers aren't just after cash - they're in it just for the mischief making, for the sheer amusement of making a stranger's life miserable. I don't want that headache and heartache for me - or Agness!
Using public networks versus VPNs
For those not in the know (I wasn't!) a VPN uses public wires, like those used for public Wi-Fi hot spots at MacDonald's or Starbucks, and creates private, secure networks (like what you'd use at home). You can't be tracked or hacked - essentially, your online presence is invisible both to the professional cons out for cash and the amateur riff-raff out to wreck havoc on your life for sport.
Given the hints of techno-phobia that flutter through my head, I needed something that was utterly idiot proof and that wouldn't cause me more frustration than it prevented. I would never have the patience for anything that would slow down my devices or drain their power. I had the chance to test out VPN services on my devices (including Agness!) and I'm happy to report that it delivered exactly as promised, with no annoyances or frustrations.
Given how much time I spend online, all over the world, it's kind of a miracle that no ill has ever come of my sloppy Wi-Fi use. But I don't think that using a VPN is something that can only benefit frequent travelers. No matter what your job or your lifestyle, chances are you're online, in public, on unsecured networks, much more than you imagine. We all need insurance for our car, our homes- this is no different. It's like privacy insurance and I don't want to be without it!
26/2/2015 05:23:23 pm
This is kind of funny to me. The only time I've ever been hacked is when I was using a VPN. While I was connected, someone got in and deleted my entire system registry. None of my programs would work after that and I had to reload the entire computer and start over. My assumption is that although outsiders can't see my computer, there is still a mile-wide open tunnel to the VPN server that anyone on the other end can walk right through.
26/2/2015 11:41:04 pm
Oh, this is such a horrible story!!! I'm so sorry to hear this happened to you. And I think you're exactly right - if you have bad intentions and just a tiny bit of technical know how, our computers are wide open for anyone to just walk on in.
My favorite cafes in the world are in Vietnam. The coffee is excellent, and the people watching is unreal. Oh and VPNs, they are just a necessity when you travel to many parts of the world, especially if you are running a blog, or like to read unbiased news as you travel - Great giveaway! Hope I win - Mike@HoneyTrek.com
28/2/2015 04:22:43 am
Hi Mike! Let's here it for amazing Vietnamese coffee! I'm going to copy your answer over to my FB page because that's where the entries are being collected!
1/3/2015 03:30:09 am
Thanks for this article - I'm also a professional travel blogger like yourself and had honestly never considered a VPN. Looking into it today!
1/3/2015 01:53:26 pm
I'm happy to hear that I wasn't alone in my ignorance of VPNs!
4/3/2015 09:42:59 am
Having to change (and memorize!) all those new passwords is such a pain! No thank you - I'd rather stay protected from the beginning.
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