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In this post, we take a look at what you need to know, before you travel, about personal safety and the safety of your personal information.
When it comes down to it, they are the two most important travel risks, as personal safety means protecting yourself from harm, and your personal information is the security of your digital information, as well as your personal belongings with you, and at home.
Safety is a major concern for many people that travel. There is no doubt that there is an increased risk when you are either traveling, or during an overseas stay. You are far more vulnerable to dangers and things going wrong during this period, so taking the right precautions up front is crucial.
As a prepper, I find comfort in knowing that I am prepared for things that could or will go wrong in my everyday routines. This doesn’t mean end-of-the-world preparations, but instead practical, everyday preparedness. Part of that preparedness means I try to be as best prepared for whatever could happen when I travel, so that should something go wrong, I am at least prepared to minimize its impact, or stop it from happening at all.
Regardless of what country you are from, in this day and age, you are at a higher risk from various forms of terrorist attacks, by either international terrorist groups or homegrown terror organizations. This threat is higher now than it ever has been in the past.
Everybody must get tired of hearing over the loudspeakers at airports that they should look out for unaccompanied baggage but have you ever thought why those messages are given out so frequently at airports and yet are rarely heard at other places where there are large crowds?
The answer is simple. It is because airports offer terrorists easy targets. You may think now that airport security has been beefed up over recent years and you no longer have to worry about safety, but the fact is that regardless of what security measures are in place, a terrorist can study airport security routines, procedures, and also the relevant security personnel, and always find some way of avoiding their attention or an ample window of time to make their move.
You may say, yes but they can do that anywhere; banks, malls or even cinemas so what is the big deal about airports?
Airports are a very busy public place full of people that have a lot on their mind, which makes them prime targets. But the one thing no terrorist can circumvent is you. Terrorists will very carefully plan their actions taking everything into consideration. This includes the expected actions of the general public. And this is why they prefer to make their attacks on airports.
In airports, people are possibly at their most vulnerable because everyone has something on their minds such as a flight delay, missing a connecting flight, will their transport be waiting for them at their destination or have they packed everything they should have?
That’s not to include the stress of finding the right boarding gate and the nerves and excitement of traveling. Most people are too absorbed in their own lives to take much notice of what is happening around them and that is what makes airport areas so vulnerable. This is magnified as travelers are less familiar with their surroundings.
You may think that bus terminals and railway stations offer terrorists the same opportunities as an airport, and sure, they do to a certain extent, but not as good an opportunity as what an airport possesses.
Although people at bus terminals and railway stations may have similar concerns to air passengers, there are also many among them that will be regular commuters who are very familiar with their surroundings and are far more likely to notice anything, or anyone, out of place. Airports, therefore, offer the potentially safer targets for terrorists to succeed in their atrocities.
This is why airports promote awareness campaigns to encourage you to ‘be aware of your surroundings’.
The Goals of a Terrorist
Although terrorist acts will almost always cause death and injury, that is not usually their goal. They have a complete disregard for human lives, their goal ultimately is to bring attention to their organization or cause. The killing and maiming they carry out will achieve that as it gets reported by the media as much as other airline-related chaotic incidents and extra-long delays.
This is also why airports are likely targets. In any given airport there is usually a mixture of nationalities. This means that media attention from several different countries will be reporting on any given incident.
The video below, from Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport, provides an important outline on suspicious activities in airports, and reporting that activity.
Due to the ultimate goal of a terrorist being to cause a disturbance which will attract the media, if you do see something suspicious or someone acting suspiciously, you should not panic but instead calmly alert security personnel or other officials in the vicinity.
These officials will be trained in securing the area with minimal fuss to ensure there is no ‘panic’ amongst people already in the airport, and that anyone attempting to commit a terrorist act has not alluded to the fact that security has been notified. This also prevents media attention and allows proceedings to carry on as close to normal as possible.
In this age of increased terrorism, we must all remain vigilant at all times. This does not mean that we should be paranoid but we should at least be a little more situationally aware and notice who or what is around us. And if we do see something odd, we should think about whether it is normal or is perhaps unusual to be where it is. In order to avoid allowing terrorists to meet their goals of attracting media attention, report any abnormalities to the nearest authority figure in a calm manner, so as not to create panic and turmoil.
I would say, particularly at airports, that if we start to be more situationally aware all the time, it will be natural for us to be equally as vigilant at airports, regardless of how many other concerns may be on our minds. In doing this, it will eventually become second nature.
The next threat to travel safety is your own personal information, so let’s take a look at what you need to know to keep yourself secure while traveling.
Over the past few years, as more personal information is kept on computers, we are seeing more and more data security breaches and database hacks causing endless amounts of leaked personal information.
Already we have seen a huge increase in cases of identity theft thanks to all of that leaked information obtained by hackers. Although we all may try and take as many precautions to our personal information as we can during our normal daily routines, do we take those same precautions when traveling on business trips or vacations?
Most people today are aware of the threat of identity theft but too few realize that there is no expiration date on identity theft which means your identity could be stolen years after the information was first leaked.
This means that although for several days after you return from a business trip you may keep close checks on your accounts in order to notice any unauthorized activity, but would you associate unauthorized activity to that same business trip several months or even years after you had returned?
Just as a bank robber may stash their ill-gotten gains for months before they start spending so as not to draw attention to themselves, hackers work in the same manner so as to have less of a chance of not being caught. They are now storing the information they steal and only using it much later when it will be harder to trace back to the time and place the hacking occurred.
In our daily routine at home or work, we will have our own private Wi-Fi that we use and so as long as we keep to standard internet security procedures, we are, or should be, reasonably safe from hacking and having our identities stolen.
However, when we travel we usually will not have our own personal Wi-Fi available and so we often take advantage of public Wi-Fi, but this could be a mistake.
It is understandable that we would want to check if our hotel booking is still in place, or that our pick-up from the airport will not be delayed, or even want to know the current score of our local sports team and so we use the free Wi-Fi available at the airport but all of these could be less important and less inconvenient than having your identity stolen.
It is far safer to buy a local SIM card and get your own private internet connection and although this may mean an additional small extra cost, it is a one-off expense, while identity theft could be a long or even lifetime expense.
Most SIM cards are available to buy in an airport just after you leave the terminal and come with a set amount of data involved. Having this phone connection also allows you to make any emergency calls should you be lost, not be able to communicate with your driver, or you feel in danger.
Most of us by now will have learned, or at least be aware, of the dangers of keeping our PIN number for a credit card in the same place as our credit card, but how many of us store our log-in information to our bank accounts on our computers?
If you had your PIN number in the same stolen wallet as your credit cards were in, you would expect to have the card used and so you would obviously cancel it immediately but what actions do you take if your computer is lost?
When using a laptop outside from work or home, who is behind you as you log in and out, and are there any so-called security cameras that could see your login details? Once again vigilance is the key to safety for both yourself and your personal information.
An increasing number of hotels have safes in the guest rooms and even those that don’t will often offer security boxes behind reception but most of these are underused. These security boxes are there for a reason and if a lot of information or documents, even a laptop had never been stolen or tampered with in hotels; those numbers would not be on the increase as they would be a needless added expense for the establishment.
If you do not need certain credit cards, documents such as passports or even all our cash when we leave our room, secure what is not needed in order to keep it safe and give yourself peace of mind.
At some point everybody knows to cancel their newspapers prior to going on vacation as unscrupulous people would watch doorsteps for a buildup of them, being a surefire sign those homeowners are on a vacation.
Today those same unscrupulous people don’t even have to leave the comfort of their own home and will instead monitor social media accounts for any sign that someone is on vacation.
Far too many people post their vacation plans on social media. Believe it or not, this is even including the dates of when they leave. Sure, it’s nice to be excited about going away on a holiday, but wouldn’t it be safer to let your friends know what you did rather than telling them what you intend to do and on what dates?
When having a conversation face to face, we may often look around to see if anyone is listening before divulging certain snippets of a personal nature but on the social media sites there is no way of looking around to see who may be “listening”. The number of people using social media sites is still on the increase and that means that opportunists are also increasingly using those same social media sites to glean their information.
As the amount of personal information shared online increases, so does the need to care in where, when and how we use it increase. This applies not only to which sites we share the information with but also the location we are physically at when sharing it. Does someone really need your date of birth and address whilst you are on a public Wi-Fi or can it wait till you reach work or home on a private connection?
In the past, people knew they had to take care of their personal documents, but today, when almost anything is available online, including certain personal information, people forget that they do not only have to be careful with that information online but they must still be careful with their documents as well. It is not a ‘one or the other’ matter; both are equally important as both have the same information and criminals are not concerned with how they get the information, as long as they get it somehow.
Our safety and the security of our personal details should always be a major concern for us. While during our usual daily routine, we might tend to be a bit more careful, when we are traveling, we just don’t take that same level of care.
When traveling, even to and from work, let alone on a vacation, our minds are absorbed with the stresses that come with timings, tickets and luggage and so are often some of our most stressful times. This stress and distraction allows us to be easy targets for those that prey on others, so extra precautions should be adopted when you are traveling so that they too become second nature.
These extra precautions are not really extra, they are just the same things we can take for granted in our more familiar surroundings but forget elsewhere. In summary, you should:
Reaching your destination safely is important but also reaching it with your identity still intact is also important, so take care of both.