Keep Your Online Identity Safe While Traveling

BreakingModern — You lock your home when you go on a trip. But do you lock up your online identity?

A new website called Private Giant will be launching soon, and one of the first things you’ll notice about it is that the website is an HTTPS site. That’s good news for those of us who’ve had their online accounts hacked during a road trip (my Facebook and Gmail accounts were hacked in 2011). The S at the end of the HTTP stands for security, and those sites are the safest to surf.

securityPrivate Giant founder and CEO, Shaun Murphy said that typing https:// into your browser tells it to connect securely or display an error if it can’t.

If you’ve surfed above 10,000 feet before, you are probably familiar with the Air to Ground technology Gogo uses as well as Southwest’s satellite Wi-Fi product. Other airlines use similar systems, but they all have one thing in common: their Wi-Fi is public. If a hacker is on your flight they may be following you as you surf.

Murphy offered these safety tips for safe surfing in the air and away from home:

Listen to Your Apps and Devices

When apps or devices say your connection is not secure, heed their warning. Web browsers usually indicate this in the URL bar with an exclamation point icon or this symbol.

Web browsers also warn if there is a problem with a website’s security certificate.

If you connect to a Wi-Fi access point that requires a log-in via your web browser, Murphy recommends using a basic site (such as because these systems initially capture that URL and then redirect you to their login system.

If a Wi-Fi access point requires you to install anything such as software, plug-in or a security certificate, disconnect and enjoy your time offline. There are exceptions, however, and I recommend installing the Gogo plug-in that lets you watch movies in flight. That plug-in has proved harmless on my iPad.


Install a Travel Browser

Install a separate web browser for traveling or connecting to unknown Wi-Fi access points. You can keep your main web browser logged into all of your favorite sites, saved passwords and all the rest. but the travel one will have none of that information.

The advantage of a separate travel browser is that “even if you do connect to an unsafe Wi-Fi, your exposure will only be limited to the new browsing session,” said Murphy. “Use this alternative browser for basic surfing and never log into your email accounts, social media accounts or post any personally identifiable information. A great alternative browser is Firefox ( available on most desktops, laptops and Android-based mobile devices.”

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Use a Virtual Private Network

If you can’t install an alternative browser, Murphy suggests using a Private or Incognito browsing mode with your browser. I’ve been using Anchor Free’s Hotspot Shield to protect my identity online both at home and when I travel. Hotspot Shield offers both free and elite protection, which covers multiple devices. The only drawback I have found using a Virtual Private Network or VPN is that some websites such as Hulu will not work with a VPN address. In April, Hotspot Shield got pretty good marks in PC Magazine’s review of the top VPN providers.

You can turn on private browsing in Apple’s Safari on your iPhone, iPad, iMac, etc. Google’s Chrome also offers an Incognito mode. According to Murphy, a VPN isn’t quite as strong as a separate travel browser, but it helps prevent leakage of most data.

Earlier this year PC Magazine reviewed the top VPNs.

Check Your Home Internet Router to See if it Offers a VPN Option

Although it can be complex to set up, Murphy said it will allow you to safely connect to your home network from any Wi-Fi access point whether it is secure or not.

Do Not Connect to Unknown or Unsafe Wi-Fi

Use your cell phone in tethering mode. And if you have Verizon, “Turn off that horribly invasive super cookie tracking!” said Murphy.

Now when I travel, Google alerts me if I’m about to visit a suspicious site. And Facebook has greatly improved its security since 2011 too. After my Gmail was hacked I learned about Gmail with 2-Step Verification and I swear by it. Safe surfing out there.

For BMod, I’m .

All Screenshots: BMod Staff

Terry Gardner

Author: Terry Gardner

Based in Santa Monica, CA, Terry Gardner is a freelance journalist whose passion for travel, scuba diving and the environment led to a career as a travel journalist. She blogs for various websites, including the Los Angeles Times Travel & Deal blog and Huffington Post. Terry's website is Her Twitter and Facebook handles are terrytravels1.

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