I am a United States citizen planning a week-long trip to Ukraine. A friend advised me that Internet security is less-than-great there. What steps should I take to protect myself if I use public or hotel wifi connections for my smart phone and laptop while there? Anything different than I would do in the US? (which right now is limited to common sense and not sending important information on non-HTTPS sites)

  • Check out how VPN services work. Choose an approriate app. – ott-- May 16 '16 at 20:57
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    We are asking the same questions here in Germany if a trip to the US is planned... ;) – Noir May 17 '16 at 14:43

As ott mentioned & let me reinforce it: Use a VPN! Especially for email sign in and banking. It's best to use it for any login activities. A traveller named Nomadic Matt wrote a couple of good articles to help you pick out which is the best for you:

Everything You Need To Know About VPNs for Travel (HINT: if you are traveling with a phone and a laptop, choose a provider that supports multiple devices)

The No-Nonsense Guide to Data Security for Travelers

Other things to do:

  • I personally bring a couple of small new storage USB drives (>4GB) as throw aways in case I have to print from at an internet cafe. In foreign countries, these computers can be riddled with viruses.
  • Have a PIN code on your mobile devices. If it supports swipe, it has been shown that grease prints make it fairly easy to re-create your pattern. Also turn on feature to wipe after a limited number of incorrect attempts.
  • Make sure you are using encryption on your phone (SD card included) and full-disk encryption for your computer. Have these devices turned off when entering the country and passing through customs (beware that you may be asked to turn on and decrypt).
  • Consider limiting the data that you take to the country. If you don't need it, leave it at home with your back-ups.
  • Phone theft (esp. these nice shiny expensive smartphones we have) can be common depending on the areas you are visiting. Have a remote wiping application enabled on your phone. I wouldn't put too much hope in the tracking feature as some countries do not have resources to "track down the phone of a tourist" they might have bigger fish to fry.
  • Get the correct plug adapter (whatplug.info shows G,D & M)) and do not charge from USB stations like you may do in American airports.
  • Turn on two factor authentication methods for email and banking during your trip. You could have these warnings forwarded to a service like Google Voice (free).
  • Keep Wi-Fi and cell service off (airplane mode) when not using it to avoid connections.

A more thorough checklist is provided here by and article in Security Magazine. This list may seem like overkill but depending on your job and the type of data you carry (read: the stakeholders of that data) they may be more essential.

Have a great trip!

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