A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology you should never travel without but until recently most applications focused on desk-laptop use and mobile versions were clunky at best. A VPN’s security benefits are invaluable to all of us who’ve connected to public wireless networks in airports and recent updates to a personal favorite, TunnelBear, bring all the advantages seamlessly to your phone or tablet.
Ease Out Of Settings
One of the biggest problems with many VPN apps is that they don’t let you connect to the actual VPN within the appropriate app itself but rather through Android or iOS setting menus. TunnelBear’s latest mobile versions are free up to 500MB for Android, iOS (they’ll throw in an extra gigabyte if you tweet about them) or $5 a month/$50 a year for unlimited use; a very good investment I recommend for most travelers.
TunnelBear’s mobile apps have very useful “Always On” mode which keeps VPN connections after your device wakes up from sleep or you lock the screen. Those extra saved clicks can help you from forgetting to protect your online privacy in countries that might not respect it.
Choose Your Digital Location
For many of you though more importantly is that TunnelBear will let you keep up with Orange Is The New Black on Netflix or any other site that’s restricted by location. Tell TunnelBear where you want to be digitally (e.g. United States) so you can watch your favorite TV shows from anywhere.
- TunnelBear also has servers in Canada, Germany, Japan and a few other countries which increases the odds you can use this trick to score cheaper airfare using a VPN.
Aside from entertainment though, a VPN can get you around local Internet censorship when traveling, keeping you connected to the Internet in places that like to shut off free speech when they don’t agree with the message. Canada-based TunnelBear also doesn’t log any of your browsing or identifiable information which means they don’t have anything to share with governments if asked.
Win A Free Annual Subscription To TunnelBear With Your Best Bear Comment
Foxy nomads who would like a free annual “Grizzly” subscription to TunnelBear can win one by posting your best bear pun, photo link (GIFs welcome), or video in the comments below. I’ll choose the beary top rated one by noon this Friday, Septembear 26th, 2014. A one year subscription to TunnelBear is equivalent to 5 teddy bears or 2 and a half women’s teddys and gives you unlimited data across all of your devices, including PCs and Macs.
Singapore is a city-state that’s known for its low crime rates as well as strong penalties for what are usually considered minor offenses in other developed nations. Sure, vandalism carries the possibility of caning as a punishment but if you have any sense, you won’t be spray painting cars in foreign countries anyway.
Putting aside things you know not to do no matter the penalties, the following offenses in Singapore have punishments you might not be expecting. It’s best to brush up first, as fines are hefty at best and jail is, well, jail.
1. Don’t Bring More Than Two Packets Of Gum
Until 2004, gum was completely outlawed in Singapore – a law that came into effect after an incident where some was stuck on a door sensor, disrupting commuter train service. After some intense lobbying by Wrigley, the ban was eased allowing the sale of gum for ‘medical purposes'; essentially whitening or nicotine-gums. To save yourself the hassle of getting a prescription to buy a packet, simply bring two with you. Two packets of gum is the legal limit, although it’s up to customs officials if they want to confiscate any amount.
And please, don’t chew where you’re not supposed to. On public transportation fines begin at $500 USD.
2. Use The Waste Bin
The only place you should spit out your gum is directly into the garbage. (Speaking of spitting, don’t do that either unless your saliva is worth $200.) Littering of any kind (smokers: cigarette butts are trash) carries a $1,000 USD fine, in additional to potential community service. So, if you don’t want to be picking up trash publicly during your visit, discard your junk properly.
3. Get Low After You Get High
Having any amount of a controlled substance (pretty much any recreational drug not alcohol) on you is serious business in Singapore. At the lowest amounts, you can be caned plus fined for drug possession while being in the presence of larger amounts has mandatory death sentences. Not traveling with drugs is pretty generic common sense, even if you have dreads, but be aware that showing up high at the airport is considered possession in Singapore. Yo, like dude, how would they find out you’re wondering? Random drug screenings at Changi Airport. Like, for real man.
4. Flush Your Crap
Literally. Although it’s probably one of Singapore’s least enforceable laws, public toilets must be flushed. The $500 fine might also help relieve you of your bathroom OCD, or you can simply learn to kick flush.
5. Cross Where You’re Supposed To
Jaywalking laws are however well enforced in Singapore. Police often (covertly) monitor random crossings and hand out $15 fines for first time offenders. Once you see a ‘no jaywalking sign’ and repeat penalties listed in the thousands staring back at you from across the street, you’ll be convinced to walk a few extra steps to cross in designated places.
There are a number of other laws (or to be fair, their punishments) many tourists have found unusual or absurd in Singapore. Remember, you’re subject to a country’s laws when you’re there, whether or not you know or agree with them. Besides, you shouldn’t be littering anyway, most of us have little sympathy for people who can’t clean up their own mess.
Hopping on to open airport wireless networks or checking your email from hotel computers are great conveniences but can expose your online accounts to password theft. One way to reduce the risk is to manage your passwords digitally but passwords can be stolen in a number of ways and places, such as Internet cafes.
You can significantly improve the security for most things your log in to daily – even from password breaches the like 5 million Gmail accounts exposed recently – by using two factor authentication. Most tutorials however emphasize working with an active phone number, which you might not always have if you’re traveling frequently. In a process that should take you about 2-4 minutes per account, here’s how to set up and use two factor authentication even when you’re dialing long distance.
Hey, Quickly, What’s Two Factor?
When you log in to, say, Facebook with a password, that’s one factor: something you know. So all someone needs to do to access your account is know the same thing – in this example, your password. The more complicated a password, the more difficult it is to guess, but passwords can simply be lifted from keyboards or swiped from databases you have no control over.
Two factor is adding something you have along with something you know. Like when you withdraw money from an ATM, the card is something you have and PIN something you know; both are needed to get cash. Imagine if someone could take money from your account just by guessing your PIN (from anywhere in the world); that’s what solely relying on a password is similar to.
Most two factor authentication setups online use a mobile phone (something you have) to text you a code that’s needed to log in to Gmail, for example, along with your password. You can see where this might cause some apprehension on a frequent traveler’s part – what if you’re traveling and can’t receive that text?
First Step: One-Time Phone Number For Non-Android Users
Android users can set up 2-step verification using the free Google Authenticator app for Android without needing an active phone number. (Any wireless Internet connection will do.) On iPhone and other devices, initial set up does require you to have a phone number. (Sorry a SkypeIn or Google Voice number won’t cut it.) Your best bet is to unlock your phone, grab a local SIM card [call mom] then get started by downloading Google Authenticator for iOS.
Next, you’re going to want to enable two factor authentication on all of the sites that Google Authenticator works with. I’ve listed how-to links to some popular sites below but basically the process is enable, wait for message with code, input code into site, done.
- Dropbox – Code required for every sign in; doesn’t require a phone number for setup with Google Authenticator.
- Gmail And Other Google Accounts – Devices can be set to remember you for a configurable number of days.
- Facebook – Codes only needed once per device, ever.
- tumblr – Same as Facebook, codes are only needed once per device.
- WordPress.com Blogs – Bloggers who use WordPress on standalone sites can download the free Google Authenticator plugin.
Additionally, there are a few other sites compatible with the Authenticator app Google’s Matt Cutts lists here. Not to mention this very long list of sites (like Amazon) that don’t work with Authenticator per say but have two factor as an option. Authy, a very inexpensive but not free, service extends two factor authentication to a number of those sites, whether you’ve got a phone or not.
Second Step: Link With Authenticator (Where Needed)
Some of the sites above let you set up with Google Authenticator right from the beginning so if you followed the steps above for Dropbox or Google on an Android device you don’t need to read further. Everyone else, you won’t need a phone number at this point, only to follow a few more steps linked below.
- How To Set Up Google Authenticator For Gmail And Other Google Accounts
- How To Set Up Facebook With Google Authenticator
- How To Use tumblr With Google Authenticator
- Using WordPress.com Sites With Google Authenticator
For convenience (and in case you forget your phone) it’s also a good idea to configure the Google Authenticator on other devices if you travel with a tablet instead of laptop, for example.
Digital Security Isn’t Jenga
Remember that no security is absolute so although you’ve got the major benefits of two factor authentication, still don’t use the same password for all of your accounts and just as you would to sext securely when traveling, be ready to remote wipe your phone in case it’s stolen or lost. Speaking of, you should probably enable two factor for iCloud, but beware it won’t protect any photos you upload to the service.
I’m not going to judge how you like to keep in digital touch with your partner(s? oh, heey playa!) but whether or not you’re sending private parts electronically, you might want to keep some bits private. Not turning your phone into a peepshow is the most secure solution but since half of you are already sexting, here’s what you can do to prevent unintended leakage.
Basic Phone Security
First of all enable a lock screen passcode for your phone (here’s how on Android and iOS). Because lock screen passcodes are a dubious protection measure at best and given that most countries can legally require you to give up passwords at customs, you’ll need to go deeper. Both free apps Private Photo Vault (iOS) and Gallery Lock (Android) have stealth modes that can hide evidence of secure picture folders when you enter in a decoy password. (Laptop users can enable the same protection using Truecrypt hidden folders.)
Don’t Get Sunk By Syncing
There are a lot of famous boobs online because of iCloud, Apple’s service which syncs photos taken on an iPhone to its servers. Android devices have a similar feature, which in theory is supposed to be hassle-free way to backup pictures you take. The Internet is not a good place to store anything you hope to keep remotely private so with a few clicks disable photo syncing.
- How To Keep Your Phone From Syncing Photos To The Cloud – Gizmodo’s got a quick rundown for both iOS and Android devices.
Digital clouds aren’t inherently risky, in fact there’s a good way cloud services can be used to protect your privacy, particularly if you lose physical contact with your hardware.
- Remote Wipe Your Phone – Setting up the iOS built-in feature Find My Phone lets you wipe your Apple devices if they’re lost or stolen (here’s how) using iCloud and Google has a similar capability for Android.
Also, keep in mind although we’re talking phones here, almost all of the advice in this post applies to tablets as well.
The Internet Is Big, Here’s How To Use It
Don’t get kinky with social media. Seriously, don’t. Not with Facebook’s new Messenger app you might be freaking out about, Twitter, Instagram… you get it.
- Snapchat Is Not Secure – Nothing completely is but the social media company’s recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission highlighted many privacy features that were exaggerated.
Still, any service you use to send digital content requires a degree of trust with the provider. (Not to mention the person who’s on the receiving end of your sexiness.) In any case travelers especially should take some basic precautions to protect communications from the NSA and lock down your laptop as all of your digital property is vulnerable when crossing international borders – cloud or no cloud.