HowTo Technology

8 Ways to Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling

Protect Your Laptop
Written by Dillan

Nowadays, pretty much everyone has access to either a phone or a laptop/desktop computer, and other devices like tablets and smartwatches are becoming ever more popular. The problem, however, is that all these devices contain tons of personal information that hackers can gain access to, or viruses can destroy, within seconds and without the owner even realising. This raises the question:

How do I protect my devices, especially when travelling and there’s a higher risk of them being stolen, hacked, or infected?

First Line of Defence

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling PAssword

Normally, one of the first things your device, whether it be a phone or laptop, does when you boot it up for the first time is suggest you create a password – and therefore it will be the first item on this list. It is literally the first line of defence your device has against unauthorised and unwanted access, so take it seriously. Passwords shouldn’t be too short or obvious (don’t use your birthday, pet names, or family names) and they should be a mix of letters, numbers, and even special characters or punctuation marks.

Unattended Device

Protect Your Laptop unattended

Firstly, when your laptop is booting up after shutdown, you can force it to boot from a USB device. The danger in this, however, is that if a hacker gains physical access to your device, they can boot from a USB containing software than can crack your password, steal your data, and gain complete access to all the passwords your internet browser has saved. Luckily, you can turn this feature off by pressing a button (depending on your device) to access your laptop’s BIOS just after it boots up. You can also password protect the BIOS to prevent anyone from turning this feature back on.

   

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Lock Your Devices

This may be done in one of two ways – you can either digitally lock your devices, or you can physically lock them with a cable lock. How does this help, you may wonder? Well, by digitally locking your device, you ensure no-one can get in easily (even the government can’t force you to give them your password) and by physically locking your devices, you can prevent your devices from being stolen or accessed at all.

Protect the Stick

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling

So you decided to use an external hard drive or a USB flash stick to store your data, whether it’s a backup or just extra-storage doesn’t matter, and you’ve taken it with you on your travels. Now what? What happens if it gets stolen or someone else manages to gain access to it? Well, there’s good news: You can encrypt your storage devices just like you would a phone or computer. There are a multitude of methods and software programs to help you do this, but the most common encryption methods are to ensure your device requires a pin, a password, or a USB “key” to unlock your device. Whichever method you prefer, your external storage devices will be all the more safer which means you can rest easy.

Where Not To Stick It

Speaking of external storage, never use an external storage device which you have never seen before or don’t own yourself, as these can contain viruses or malware that install and embed themselves in your system before you can react. Of course, this goes for plugging your own external storage devices into computers you don’t know – the same thing can happen, and the next time you use your own computer with the external storage device plugged in you’ll be unwittingly infecting your computer or any other digital device connected to it from then on out.

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Hackers can use this method for gaining access to a whole multitude of computers and devices quickly, which obviously means that your privacy is at risk. Luckily, however, there are programs designed to combat this – aptly named “Anti-virus” – which leads to the next item on the list.

Anti-Virus

Anyone using a computer should have an anti-virus installed; it’s best practice and there aren’t very many downsides. However, what many people don’t know is that phones and other digital devices should also have anti-virus software installed. It makes sense, but people tend to overlook it because they don’t understand the mechanics of it. Hackers often use viruses and malware programs in order to gain access to your devices, so having an anti-virus is one extra layer of protection. Phones nowadays are more powerful than computers were a few decades ago, and they can contain almost every detail of our lives, so protecting them is of utmost importance.

VPN

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling

The internet, what a wonderful invention. There are so many benefits to being connected 24/7, but, like all things in life, there are many dangers. One of the main dangers is the potential to have your device hacked from anywhere in the world, and the only way to prevent a hacker from detecting you on the internet is if you know how to hide yourself. There are many options out there to help do this, the main one being a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. A VPN makes sure than any data send or received over the internet is encrypted and almost invisible to hackers looking for opportunities. Also, it allows you to use public Wi-Fi without fear. One of the best ways to create a VPN and browse the internet safely is to use a travel router with in-built firewalls.

[Scroll down to see how we configure a small portable travel router]

What To Have Handy If You’ve Been Hacked

Besides keeping your data and devices safe, you have another option in case it all goes wrong – keep a backup. Now, don’t keep the backup on the same device you’re backing-up, that doesn’t make sense, though there are many people who do it anyway. To do this properly, you’ll need to get an external hard drive or USB flash stick that has enough memory, or another device that you know is safe.

You can also backup your data to the cloud – there are hundreds of secure options – but it uses a lot of data and might be cause for concern since you have no control over the server it’s stored on. If you’re travelling, the safest option is to probably leave a backup at home. In any case, whichever method you choose to store your backup, you’ll want to copy all your data onto the backup device. This can be done by a variety of methods, and some external hard drives come packaged with special utilities that once run can aid the process. Phones and tablets also have pre-packaged utilities to do the same thing if you connect them to your computer.

 

How to Setup a VPN on a Travel Router

Darren

by Darren Wall

If you have purchased yourself a TP-Link WR710N travel router, you will know that it has some useful features. However, what you’ve probably missed is, its ability to connect to a VPN service. Meaning, that unlike many other small portable routers, this model will enable you to access content that is GEO blocked. For instance, if you’re away on holiday, with this device and have a VPN subscription you can continue to watch your favorite Netflix, Amazon, etc. shows.

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling

In the following guide, I am going show you how to set up your WR710N router to do just that.

Travel Router VPN Setup Requirements

As with all tutorials, you are going to need a few things before we start, they are as follows.

1) A subscription to a free or paid for VPN service, one which offers L2tp or PPTP access.

2) The Ethernet cable that came with the travel router, or one that is long enough to reach between your home Hub (router) and the TP-Link.

3) Make a note of the routers wireless pin; it can be found on an attached sticker, above the SSID.

Before We Begin

With the above requirements in place, you are nearly ready to start the process of following the below tutorial. However, before you begin, let’s recap on what we’re going to do, and what completing the process will give you.

1) Connect the TP-Link router to a VPN server.

2) No downloading or flashing of software and no interference to your existing setup is required.

3) Allow multiple wireless devices to connect to the VPN and make use of previously GEO locked content.

Tip

While the following tutorial has been specifically created for the WR710N, it is possible that many other TP-link routers could also benefit from it. You will be able to determine that by logging into the device’s interface and comparing the screenshots below. If the interfaces are remotely similar, you could go ahead. Although if you have any questions, please post them below.

As for this tutorial, I advise you to read each step and then act upon them individually carefully. Using this approach has been proven to mitigate any mistakes that could happen.

Let’s Begin…

How To Setup a VPN on the TP-Link WR710N Travel Router

1) Connect the VPN travel router WAN-port to a LAN-port on your home router, using an Ethernet cable.

2) Plug the TP-Link into a power outlet and wait for its green light to become solid (non-flickering).

3) Next, using a computer or laptop refresh the available Wi-Fi Networks list. Once that has completed you should be able to see the SSID, which is TP-Link_267A50, or something similar.

4) Now, click connect and wait to be prompted to enter the wireless pin that you made a note of earlier. When finished entering the pin tap next, and wait for a moment or two for the a connection to be done.

Accessing the Router

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling

5) Moving on, it is now time to access the travel routers control panel. To do that, open your preferred browser and enter http://tplinklogin.net. When done, you should see a small pop-up requesting that you enter the login details. For the device in this tutorial, that was username: admin, and password: admin. However, yours could be different; please refer to the manuals operating mode configuration details.

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling Screenshot 2

6) Assuming that you are in and can see the TP-Link setup screen, we are now ready to setup the VPN connection. To do so, look to the left-hand menu, and select Network followed by Wan (see above image).

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling ScreenShot 3

7) With the Wan options now set out in front of you use the Wan connection type drop-down to select L2TP/Russia L2TP. Selecting this connection type will change the options below ready for VPN setup (see above image).

8) With the paid for or free VPN service you are signed up to, you will have a username, password, and a server address/IP address. Enter them into the required fields.

9) Additional options that can be altered include MTU Size. I advise that you keep this at 1460 (default). However, if you have problems surfing the web via the TP-Link router try an MTU Size of 1400. As for the Max Idle Time set that to 0 minutes, and select connect on demand, after-which click save.

10) Finally, you are ready to connect to your VPN using this device, to do that click connect, which is below ‘Confirm Password.’ And that’s it you are done, you can now enjoy Geo locked content when and wherever you are.

PIN It

Protect Your Laptop From Being Hacked While Travelling

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Dillan

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