How to travel safe as a freelancer

Lock and go

No matter what your freelancing speciality is, you’re often going to spend a significant portion of your time on the move. Whether visiting clients, or cranking through tasks in a coffee shop or coworking space, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be knocking out billable hours across a variety of locations during the working year. Make sure you travel safe.

Being productive on the move has never been easier (thanks to the latest generation of mobile devices), but it does require diligence in terms of security.

Even seasoned web professionals need to be constantly on their guard. Fail to take the right precautions, and you could be exposing both yourself and your clients’ precious data.

In this piece, we’ll help you keep things locked down while you’re out and about, by introducing six simple steps you can use to keep the bad guys at bay.

Let’s start by taking care of the obvious.

Travel safe tip #1: Don’t ignore the basics

The basics of digital security apply just as much whether you’re constantly shifting location or stuck in the same location for months — so don’t ignore them! We covered many of these standard security precautions in our recent piece on home office security, so we’ll just briefly remind you of the basics here rather than going through each one in depth.

Travel Safe FileVault
Hard disk encryption options such as FileVault are well worth considering.

To recap, you’ll need to keep your operating system and major applications constantly up to date, use antivirus software, keep a constant eye out for phishing attacks, and ensure that you’re practicing password best practices at all times. It’s also well worth considering hard disk encryption on all your major devices.

Let’s move on to more specific tips for operating out in the wild.

Travel safe tip #2. Cultivate situational awareness

The next time you’re coding away with the headphones on in a coffee shop, take a moment to stop and really drink in your surroundings. You’ll soon notice that most of your fellow workers are largely oblivious to their surroundings while immersed in their work. This is potentially good news from a productivity point of view, but it’s a major security boo-boo in terms of both your personal safety and that of your devices.

Situational awareness is a learned skill, and one that will serve you well over time.

 

Review the basics, get into the habit of thoroughly assessing your environments before entering, and regularly check in on what’s actually going on around you as you work.

Travel safe tip #3: Lock down your devices

Just as you wouldn’t leave your house without locking the door, you shouldn’t be shuffling around town with devices that are wide open to intruders. There are two main ways in which this travel safe tip applies:

  1. Ensure all devices have lock screens engaged, and that you’re never leaving them unattended without being absolutely sure they can’t be easily accessed in person.
  2. Crack open your wallet and buy a decent physical laptop lock to keep it firmly fixed in place if you’re stepping away from it.

Travel safe tip #4: Consider using privacy filters

Travel Safe Laptop Privacy Filter

This one may be a bridge too far for some, but as the old saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Privacy filters are simple devices that can be fitted over the vast majority of laptop screens, rendering their contents illegible to all but the person who happens to be sitting directly in front of them (i.e. you).

Travel safe tip #5: Have a backup plan for physical theft

Even if you’re diligently following all of our steps to travel safe so far, you might still end up having devices stolen.

The time to start thinking about what might happen in the event of a robbery is well before one actually occurs.

Travel Safe Find My Mac
Tools such as Find My Mac help keep you covered.

Make sure you’ve covered the following options upfront:

  1. Your laptop and all of your devices are securely backed up to the cloud. You should be thinking of these devices as essentially throwaway items.
  2. You’ve set up a way to track and remotely wipe your devices if possible.

Travel safe tip #6: Always use a VPN

Ideally, you should always be sticking to trusted networks when you’re on the move, but even that sensible precaution isn’t always enough to keep the bad guys from your virtual door. Put simply, you’re potentially exposing your data to anyone else on the same network when you’re taking advantage of WiFi.

Travel Safe CyberGhost VPN
VPN services such as CyberGhost keep you safe from digital snooping.
By using an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you’re out and about, you remove entire classes of security concerns.

 

You’ll benefit from the ability to securely use home and office networks remotely, and shut the digital door on anyone who might be trying to snoop in on your browsing. There’s a slight performance penalty to pay at times, but the trade-off in terms of security and peace of mind is more than worth it.

Conclusion

The ability to work productively on the move has transformed the noble art of freelancing over the last decade. With the right tools and technology, the world is essentially your office these days. However, that flexibility comes at a price. To travel safe, you’ll need to be on your guard in terms of security at all times.

To close things out, let’s step through our six main tips for keeping safe on the go one more time:

  1. Rigorously stick to the security basics.
  2. Be constantly aware of your surroundings.
  3. Lock down all of your devices, both digitally and physically.
  4. Use privacy filters where appropriate.
  5. Prepare for worst case scenarios thoroughly.
  6. Always use a VPN.

Do you have any particular tips you use to stay safe while working on the move? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!

Image by: Daquella manera via Visual Hunt / CC BY