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.
In many ways Egypt hasn’t changed much since its 2011 revolution – politically the military is back in power, media reports it’s more dangerous than Yemen (based on a truly bizarre conclusion by the World Economic Forum), and life in Hurghada sails along peacefully for tourists and kite surfers.
Terrorism, Protests Out Of The Way
There are a lot of good reasons to visit Hurghada and one why you’re probably hesitant to – it’s in Egypt. Although our brains are wired to generalize bad news, like most places, national borders are too broad to define boundaries of safety. Egypt has more land area than Germany, Malaysia, and New Zealand combined. Hurghada, where there hasn’t been an incidence of terrorism since 1994, is isolated from Egypt’s main population centers by 450 kilometers (250 miles) of land and physically separated from the Sinai Peninsula by 30 km of sea.
There is a single road leading to Hurghada which is strictly controlled by an Egyptian military who is well aware that tourism brings over 10 billion dollars into the economy each year. Even the U.S. State Department, generally the most cautious western power with its travel warnings, advises that travel to Hurghada is safe.
Protests in Hurghada are something of a local running joke – there was one on August 16, 2013 – during the height of unrest that year in Egypt. Political revolutions don’t begin in resort towns and everyone, demonstrators included, knows it.
Low Crime Rate By High Common Sense
According to a 2014 Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) report on Egypt, crime in the country as a whole remains low despite increasing over the past 4 years. The biggest worries for tourists are pickpocketing but women in particular should take specific advice from my related live chat and this Solo Friendly article.
Roads in and around Hurghada are fairly well paved concrete running straight through flat desert terrain which is probably why most the traffic accidents happen to and from the city – not in it. Egypt’s roads are about as safe as India’s, so buckle up whether you’re in a car or bus.
Recent news might have you wondering if you should cancel your travel plans but as others do, it’s the best time for you to make some if you haven’t. Prices at resorts like the Kempinski and The Breakers in Soma Bay are relative bargains as Turkish Airlines adds more weekly flights direct from Istanbul. As it was 4 months after Egypt’s 2011 revolution, there is now a rare travel window of opportunity you can take advantage of along the shores of the Rea Sea.
Hurghada, Egypt was something of a blank canvas for me where I kept asking how I could travel the world yet mentally miss such an attractive travel destination. I was last in Egypt right after the 2011 revolution, a memorable event in world history which continues to keep on average 100,000 tourists from visiting the country annually. The recovery of Egyptian tourism isn’t starting near the lonely Pyramids of Giza but rather along the Red Sea coast over 450 kilometers (~280 miles) away in places like Hurghada.
1. Hurghada Is Safe
Let’s get this issue out of the way first, Hurghada is far from the busy streets of Cairo physically and politically. It has a small population of around 60,000; roughly .00075% of the Egyptian total population of 80 million. Whereas thousands of protestors took to the streets to demonstrate against then president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, only a handful showed up in Hurghada to be readily ignored by residents making their way to work. Cultural revolutions don’t usually begin in resort towns unless the fuss is something related to beach chairs.
2. Direct Flights
Travelers are generally reluctant to opt for flights with layovers to smaller destinations or ones they might be less familiar with like Hurghada. Fortunately, there are a number of direct flights to Hurghada from places like Istanbul (round-trip flights on Turkish Airlines can be found for less than $350) as well as cities across Europe. Currently there aren’t any direct flights from the United States but you could take the opportunity to use multi-city flights to see more for less or get up to 70% off your ticket using MagicFare.
3. One Of The Best Places To Snorkel…
The Red Sea is home to one of the world’s 10 largest coral reefs and top three longest, over 2,000 kilometers (~1,240 miles). This reef system is home to over 1,400 endemic species of marine life where it was recently discovered that part of the coral is itself a new species. I’ve snorkeled in many waters, including off Socotra Island in Yemen, but 500 meters off the shores of The Breakers in Hurghada is the best I’ve experienced anywhere.
4. Scuba Dive…
Not surprisingly, Hurghada is Egypt’s second most popular (but much less crowded than Sharm el-Sheikh) place to scuba dive, rated by CNN as one of the top 50 worldwide. Whale sharks, scary sharks, a number of sea turtles to name a few, plus you can find Nemo here too.
5. …And Kite Surf
On any given day there’s a 65% chance of winds over 14 knots (16 mph) blowing across the warm Red Sea waters in Hurghada. If you like the combination of water with wind while exploiting drag, Hurghada will welcome your kites. Most of the hotels in Soma Bay will store any water sporting equipment you bring so you don’t have to lug it every trip to Egypt. Those of you who want to get into the sport – usually after watching surfers for about 10 seconds – can take lessons and be on the water on your own in about 5 days. Flips and tricks optional.
6. Now’s The Time To Enjoy Bargains On Pretty Much Everything
Nobody in Hurghada will argue with you that tourism there is hurting, leaving many of the hotels there operating at far less than maximum capacity. Fewer arrivals has resulted in noticeably reduced rates at fancier places like the Kempinski in Soma Bay. Apartment rentals are going up but right now seems to be the beginning of a tourism rebound you’ll need to take advantage of sooner rather than later.
Why You’re Not Going: It’s In Egypt
Egypt is a country with such an abundance of worthy tourism destinations that many not-called-the-Sphinx are taken for granted. The Pyramids everyone is confused about, the sole backup of the entire Internet in Alexandria, and haunted palaces of devil worship obscure 760 km of Red Sea coastline. Media coverage and security concerns also pixelate the entire country. Bad news north in the Sinai Peninsula’s Sharm el Sheik resorts bleeds down to the calmer shores of Hurghada a 750 km (470 mile) drive away.
Known fairly well to Russian and other Eastern European tourists, plus nationals from German-speaking nations, the most surprisng thing about Hurghada is not that people are still visiting, it’s that they mostly aren’t.