The days of traveling safely around the globe while using wireless devices are long gone (and maybe they never existed). These days the only way to use a phone, tablet, or laptop is to take precautionary measure to protect it from the myriad of malware on the web. However, there are ways to keep devices protected from cyber attacks when traveling abroad.
The best way to get from here to there safely is to download a virtual private network (VPN) server onto any wireless device. A VPN allows users to access the Internet and visit any site, torrent, server, or platform and yet remain anonymous and untraceable. Travellers can communicate, surf the web, use streaming services, and access their accounts and remain completely protected from hackers who are continuously trying to hack their devices. VPNs are also great for connecting to public Wi-Fi access points without worrying about someone hacking into the device.
A VPN can mask a user's actual virtual location known as an IP address and replace it with a 'fake' IP address in another location. For instance, the user may be in Hong Kong, but the IP address on their device will make a hacker think that they are located in London. A VPN also provides a virtual tunnel that encrypts (scrambles) and encapsulates (fully protects) any messages or data that a user sends to another user. An invader can neither read the message or even know that it is in transit.
There are numerous VPN services available for users. The most reputable services have been around for at least two or more years, have monthly subscription services, and provide a wide range of features, including multi-layer device protection.
When using a VPN for traveling, users should look for the following components in any VPN
Hundreds of servers -- especially servers available in the countries that someone is traveling to. Ideally, a VPN should have at least 800+ servers in 50+ countries
AES-256-GCM encryption - it is the most powerful
Unlimited devices per account
No logs - users online is not recorded or logged
Kill switch in case the VPN server connection is lost for any reason
Private DNS & leak detection
IKEv2/IPsec secure protocol
Ad-blocker & whitelister
Software auditing to test performance
While it is difficult to find all of these features on all VPNs, many of the reputable apps such as Surfshark, NordVPN, or ExpressVPN will have the options for users.
Why Users Should Install a VPN on Their Devices When Traveling
There are several reasons why users should install a VPN on their device when traveling to another country (or even within their own country).
1. Complete Security
When most people think of security apps, they automatically defer to malware detection or antivirus apps. While these apps do a great job of detecting or responding to a cyber attack, they do not necessarily prevent cyber attacks. They either have a mechanism that attacks and kills the malware once it lands on a device, or they notify the user that the device has been compromised in some way.
A virtual private network (VPN), however, prevents a cyber attack from happening, because it hides the user's device from the attacker and completely encapsulates the data. It makes the device completely invisible so that the hacker has no idea it is even there. There is a vast difference between building a wall to keep invaders out and building a wall that no one ever sees.
2. Access to Blocked Websites
When travelers go to other countries, they may quickly discover that some of their favorite websites back home are not accessible in the country they are visiting. These sites are easy to block because the Internet Service Provider (ISP) can detect an IP address on any device and block the address from the website.
A VPN solves this problem by masking the IP address. Therefore, the ISP cannot block an address that it cannot detect. Users are free to access any website without being detected by any agency. This is why users need to make sure that a VPN server is available in the country they are visiting. If the server is accessible, then a user can access a website unhindered.
3. Access Streaming Services
One of the biggest downsides to traveling abroad is that travelers cannot access their favorite streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon. Why? Because many of the show and movies that are available in the U.S. are not available in other countries due to strict international copyright laws.
A VPN can help a user get around this dilemma. A traveler may need to use a device such as an Amazon Firestick to gain access to a website via a TV. However, if the user is accessing a streaming service through a phone, tablet, or laptop, a VPN can help them bypass the blocks that streaming services such as Netflix impose on users in foreign countries outside the U.S.
4. Prevent Bank Accounts from Freezing Up
It is not uncommon for traveler's bank accounts to freeze up when they visit another country. In most cases, a bank account will freeze up because the traveler failed to inform the bank that they were leaving the country.
A VPN can help these absent-minded travelers by allowing them to make transactions with their devices without the bank knowing that they have left the country. Users can use devices to make purchases, log in to their accounts, or make other transactions. The best solution, however, is to tell their bank that they are going on vacation in a foreign land. This keeps the freeze from happening in the first place.
A dependable, secure VPN is the most important app that a user will have on their devices when traveling to another country. They give the traveler the freedom to do the same things they would do at home, but without being traced or attacked online. They're an affordable solution for the security-conscious vacationer.