Ultimate security guide for digital nomads

2022 08 18

The pandemic has given a true boost to the “working from anywhere” trend. More people choose to embrace the lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely. Such people are known as digital nomads.  

Working elsewhere might seem like an excellent opportunity to explore new locations while being able to fulfil your work tasks at the same time. Although ensuring security does not always come as a priority for most travellers. I have recently decided to change my working environment for a short period and made some notes on behavioural and technical security tips.  

In this blog post, I deep dive into the digital nomad’s concept and core information security recommendations that everyone needs to consider before jumping into another “working from anywhere” adventure. 

What is a digital nomad? 

Digital nomads describe themselves as people who choose to live in a nomadic way while working remotely with the help of technology and the internet. They usually travel from one country to another, living in temporary housing. Digital nomads tend to work remotely in various public places, such as cafes, co-working spaces or public libraries where they have wi-fi access.  

The growth of the digital nomad community is also proven by the MBO partners‘ report, showing that since 2019, the number of digital nomads has increased by 49% in the U.S. alone.  

Let us not forget that there are also expatriates (expats) who usually visit one foreign country intending to return home rather than constantly changing their location. Therefore, digital nomads and expats should consider the information security risks and ways of minimising possible threats. 

Security tips before traveling 

When preparing for a trip or while travelling, you have to consider many things, such as if your computer has all the updates or how to ensure privacy while working. That is why we have divided IT security recommendations into technical and behavioural ones. 

Technical tips  

  • Get yourself a privacy filter. You may have noticed that you cannot see what the employees are doing on their computers when visiting a bank. This is a simple gadget you can purchase in most electronics shops and use on your computer. Let us say you are abroad with many unfamiliar people at an open space office and are using a privacy filter. Anyone sitting beside you can only see a black screen unless they come at a very close angle, almost sitting behind you. This to helps protect you from unwanted eyes seeing what you are working on, thus keeping your data more secure;
  • Be sure your audio items work properly. Invest in better quality headphones that do not let sound through, have noise cancellation, and have a good microphone. It prevents the risk of someone overhearing a conversation;
  • Give yourself extra time to prepare before your trip. Ensure your computer software is updated and everything else that you might need is working too. It is also advised to discuss with your IT team if they will be able to connect remotely or guide you online in case of an issue. 

Behavioural recommendations  

  • Check internet availability before going abroad. Before visiting a foreign country, check if it belongs to the list of countries with internet restrictions, such as China, UAE, and others. This may cause network issues-connecting to a VPN might become super difficult or even impossible;  
  • Consider taking your personal computer. Sometimes people have two or more devices, such as a company-provided computer and a personal one. When travelling, people usually take only their work computer and use it for work and personal reasons altogether. However, it poses many risks, for example, surfing the web without paying attention has the chance of installing viruses. Therefore, it is highly recommended to either take your personal computer with you or stay safe while using your work computer if you intend to use it for leisure as well. 

Security tips during your travel 

Technical recommendations to consider 

  • Using VPN goes by the default. According to thebrokebackpacker report, most digital nomads live in hotels (51%), then with friends/family (41%), Airbnb (36%), car/RV/van (21%), and hostels (16%), meaning that people most likely use public wi-fi sources. We recommend using your company-supplied VPN or investing in a VPN subscription to keep your activity hidden from potential threats and encrypt your connection. Another option is to use mobile data;  
  • Do not forget your antivirus software. Use antivirus software with a local firewall and conduct regular scans to ensure protection from ransomware, spyware, intrusion, etc.;
  • Prevent data loss. Keeping your necessary files in the cloud helps to ensure that all your data is stored and backed up in case something happens to your device. Also, make sure that your storage device is encrypted. This can really save the day if your device gets stolen since you will have your information stored securely and easily accessible;
  • Install tracking software for your own peace of mind. We tend to think that “this is not going to happen to us” when it comes to robberies and other risks. When travelling to a new country, it is necessary to be aware that our things may not be safe. The best you can do is to keep your belongings in your eyesight and install tracking software to be able to locate and retrieve your device as soon as possible in case of robbery. 

Behavioural tips 

  • Do not tell sensitive information while working in public places. Even in a foreign country, we cannot be sure that anyone around us does not understand us. If you have an online meeting in a public place, avoid discussions that involve sensitive information. Instead, continue the conversation via chat or when you are more isolated; 
  • Consider working from home or in private spaces. If you are always working with confidential information, the ideal option would be to work from your new hotel or apartment. However, if the accommodation is not suitable enough for working and a public place is the better solution, if possible, try to find a sitting place further away from other people, for example, choose a corner spot. This way, you will have more privacy since fewer people will sit beside you;
  • Avoid leaving your things unattended. Especially if you travel alone or are in a public place. Even in an open space office, do not leave your devices unattended for too long or at all;  
  • Do not forget to log out and lock your computer. Always lock your computer before taking a break and keep a clean workspace. Do not forget to log out; this may help prevent someone from stealing your session. Finally, do not leave important notes with sensitive information in an easily accessible place. 

Global practice shows that possibly more people will choose to live in a nomadic way, travelling and working remotely. Also, the increasing number of co-working spaces around the globe helps to make this concept more achievable.  

Although being a digital nomad is exciting, following some key IT security recommendations can help you to enjoy your nomadic lifestyle to the fullest. We highly recommend educating yourself and others on how to stay secure during travels and ensure maximum protection.  

It is essential to establish that it is best to always try to aim for maximum protection but note that the lifestyle of a digital nomad poses more security threats. Therefore, more information security concerns should be taken into consideration. 

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