I’ll bet you didn’t know you could buy underwear with zippockets big enough to hold a smartphone or a portable camera. The Travel section of the Telegraph has a great article with good instructions on how to protect your digital resources.
In addition to the advice in the article, there are some other considerations.
Watch for the potential for theft at the security checkpoint at the airport. Be deliberately slow going through security to allow the person in front of you to complete most of the security path and then move through while you keep your eyes on your bag throughout the security screening process. This will minimize the chance for theft of your bag or laptop on the far end of the security point. If you’re a business or government traveler, your laptop computer is valuable to a thief and you may be specifically targeted strictly for its value. It may be important enough to justify them purchasing a ticket to get into the secure area to steal it.
A common theft technique involves a two-person team that will work to delay you during the security process. Person number one moves through and waits for your bag to appear on the other end of the belt. Person number two is in front of you and delays your movement in some manner. Person number one grabs your bag or laptop from the other end of the belt. The far end of the security process is an area with less focus for the security agents as they are normally facing the people coming into the checkpoint. Once the thief has your bag, they can quickly exit the secure area, which is normally just around the corner from the entry point and out of view of most security staff. By the time you notice your bag is gone, the thief is out of the terminal and impossible to locate.
If the computer is stolen, you can assume everything on it is open for exploitation. If a qualified thief gets your laptop, they will get to your files. Don’t be fooled into believing that passwords for logging into the operating system (e.g., Windows) cannot be broken. A different hard drive, such as a thumb drive, can be used to launch a different operating system on the computer to control it. Once the alternative operating system is installed, then all of the files on the computer can become visible and accessible.
A good precaution is to encrypt your files. Free file encryption software is available on the Internet for both e-mail and documents. Many of them offer adequate protection for routine use. You can also use the software to encrypt files while you’re offline and then go online only long enough to upload the document as an attachment.
Instead of writing personal information into the e-mail itself, you could type everything into a document, encrypt it, and then attach it to the e-mail. This minimizes your vulnerability with only a minimal increase in time spent.
A better solution is to keep files off your computer whenever possible. Save your files on a password-protected file server, so you can access them via the Internet. Thumb drives are convenient, but they are also easily lost, damaged, or stolen. If you use a thumb drive, encrypt it and then guard it carefully.
There are other minimum steps to protect your computer (either traveling or at home):
For more than 25 years, Steve was an intelligence community professional who traveled and lived throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central America. He now uses his experiences and formal training to help people overcome their reluctance to travel by giving them the solid, reliable information they can use to plan effectively, reduce risk, react to danger, and return home safe.