Here's how I'm protecting 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
It was this article by blogger Nora Dunn of the Professional Hobo that introduced me to the world of VPNs, or virtual private networks, as a means to protect me and Agness. 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 F-Secure's Freedome on my devices (including Agness!) and I'm happy to report that it delivered exactly as promised, with no annoyances or frustrations. And it gave me one more bonus - F Secure's Freedome rolls security into your VPN, including anti-virus detection that scans for spyware and malware.
I'm declaring my Freedome and getting invisible online
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!