By: David Freuden
Consider just how much easier it now is to travel and do business overseas, especially with an abundance of blockchain conferences worldwide. Traveling city to city or country to country with either a little or all your digital assets stored on your laptop, smartphone or even your hard-wallet can be a potential disaster.
With Bitcoin and other digital assets alike, you own the currency that you have. There is no third party that you have to seek permission from to authorize a payment or transaction. Being your own bank is one of the most appealing factors of cryptocurrency. But with it comes greater self-responsibility. There is no Bitcoin helpdesk number, therefore traveling with your own bank comes with its own set of unique challenges and risks.
Travelling provides more opportunity to ‘lose’ your crypto than you may have considered:
- Border checkpoints where your bags and devices may be checked out of your sight
- Free Wi-Fi anywhere — airport, hotel lobby, shopping centers, conference centers, public
- Big Brother — so many security cameras that can see your keyboard while you enter your passcodes.
We hope that the following guide will help you be better prepared to travel the world securely without fear of losing your cryptocurrencies.
Any Funds That You Do Not Plan On Trading, Should Not Be Traveling With You
Do you really need to travel with 100% of your crypto? Or can you have a travel-specific web-wallet or hard-wallet that holds only a smaller portion of your crypto funds that you wish to actively trade?
Purchasing a pair of hard-wallets is a great idea to separate your long-term holdings and shorter-term trading currencies. Only travel with what you’re willing to lose.
The best hard-wallets I can recommend are:
Alternatively, you may choose to keep your shorter-term trading currencies on a few select exchanges and only use these exchanges during your excursion(s).
Remove All Your Passwords From Your Electronic Devices
- Your Laptop + Tablet
- Your Mobile (Cell) Phone
- Your Email
- Any Apps or Synced Cloud Storage
Search through everything on your computer thoroughly, making sure you remove login credentials, passwords, and backup seeds. Syncing apps such as Wunderlist and Evernote can leave you vulnerable like Ian Balina, who was a victim of a $2M hack during a live-stream session — see video here.
It is inevitable that while traveling, at some point, you and your phone or laptop will be separated. You may leave your laptop in your hotel room while going out for the night, or your mobile in your shorts when you dive into the ocean for a swim.
This isn’t just about having your items stolen, which happens in some places more than others, it is also about providing hackers the opportunity to access your device(s) and removing your data, increasing your chances for identity theft.
Online accounts and cloud backups have defenseless access points as they can provide a quick back door to your crypto accounts and passwords. Think about all the media scandals over ‘leaked’ private photos from celebrities and then ask yourself what else has been stolen that isn’t deemed media worthy or is valuable to dark web users. Lots.
Now is time to think about how travel-conscious you are about protecting your wallet and credit cards from being stolen, and then have the reality check that actually, you are also traveling with a bigger amount in crypto… Hopefully not all your crypto after having read the first subheading.
Remove the backup Seed for your Web-Wallet or Hard-Wallet
There is absolutely no need to ever travel with your seed. None. Ever.
Your seed is for emergencies only. They are your “sh*t, I’ve lost all my passwords’ back door to access your crypto. The safest thing to do with your seed is:
- Write it down duplicates of your seed and keep them in two different safe places
- Break down the seed into 2 or 3 parts (ie. 2 x 12 words or 3 x 8 words) and keep them in separate safe places. This way, no single person has your full seed.
Remember: If you lose your seed they do not need your hard-wallet to access your crypto.
If you need your seed whilst traveling, get it over the phone, not electronically.
Many people have accounts with at least 6 different exchanges. Some traders have accounts with dozens of online brokerages. And each exchange you are registered with should have a totally unique password. The longer the password the better.
If you are part of the 5% with near photographic memory, then this does not apply to you. But for the rest of us mere mortals, we need some help remembering which password is for which exchange.
- Write down on paper (yep, old-school) a list of your passwords and split them amongst several close family members or friends that you can trust. When you need these passwords, call them. Do not have them send them via text, as these can be intercepted more easily than you think. (especially if you’re using free Wi-Fi). And definitely, do not have them email it to your or sync it to you over a shared cloud storage system. These are all vulnerable to hackers.
- Use a Password Manager:
A password manager is a software that generates complex passwords when they’re needed.
A robust password manager will generate and store your passwords. Some have optional cloud syncing so all your devices can carry a copy of your password manager to provide multiple device access. Having them on multiple devices also acts as a backup for that device in the event that you need to utilize FindMyPhone to wipe all your devices contents. You can just re-download the app and sync to reinstall all of your data.
Some password managers also offer Two-Factor Authentication, adding another layer of security.
Note: Please don’t use the word ‘password’ as your password, or the names and birthdays of family or friends. Hacker’s begin with the most popular phrases in hopes to access your private data.
Cloud Storage: Disable your auto sync
In the event that you didn’t read “Remove All Your Passwords from your electronic devices” and you are adamant about keeping your crypto details and password in an electronic form, you need to also remember that most cloud storage platforms auto-sync with your computer to back up your data into the cloud.
Cloud-based storage can sync with all of your devices — desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone allowing all of them to share information.
Whilst you may think that your smartphone has no information on it, it can still be used to access your crypto banking information.
Before you travel make sure all your devices are disabled of auto sync.
Clear Your Browser History
Traveling with all your browser history saved on your devices can be like traveling in an actively logged in accounts.
Ensure your browsing history is erased from all your devices; laptop, tablet and cell phone before you leave.
Browser history involves every single activity previously performed on your computer or phone, and it includes downloaded files, saved passwords, every site you visited, and every other data generated on your device.
Erasing your history before you travel will help keep your crypto secure as any of the above categories could be used to help gain access to your wallet.
Two Factor Authentication, also known as 2FA, two-step verification or TFA (as an acronym), is an extra layer of security for your cryptocurrency accounts.
They work by generating a 6-digit code that needs to be entered into the exchange directly after you have logged on. Every 30 seconds, the app generates a new 6-digit code that needs to be entered and match the code that is generated by the exchange. Accesing your trading account is only possible when the digits match.
I recommend Google Authenticator or Authy mobile apps. Authy has the added feature of providing a backup. In the event that you have your phone stolen, and you wipe everything off your phone using FindMyPhone or similar, a backup exists with all the exchanges details on it. This is much faster than having to contact each exchange to reset your 2FA
As a side note, many several social media platforms such as Facebook, as well as cloud storage services have 2FA functionality. Please activate them. Especially when traveling.
No Free Wi-Fi… Ever
Free Wi-Fi is becoming ubiquitous.
Free Wi-Fi offers the first point of vulnerability for hackers.
The most vulnerable Wi-Fi is usually located in public spaces via ‘free city Wi-Fi’, hotel lobbies, shopping malls, event spaces and conference centers.
When you do need Wi-Fi, we recommend:
- Global Roaming before you leave home. Please check prices as some are just ridiculously expensive and it may be cheaper to buy a pre-paid international data Sim card before you leave
- Buy a local Sim Card with data: Usually the cheaper option, especially for extended trips.
If you need your computer or tablet, just tether to your phone. Remember that websites on laptops take up more data than websites designed for your mobile.
No Trading in Public
So many countries have CCTV everywhere that we have become a bit desensitized to their existence.
You may not see them. But chances that if you are in a shopping mall, hotel foyer or event and conference center, rest assured they are watching and recording you.
Just like taking money out of an ATM you don’t want someone looking over your shoulder. Trading in public creates the opportunity for your passwords to get recorded.
Don’t take the risk, trade only in private.
What hackers look like.
Hacking is a modern-day business stealing millions and millions of dollars from innocent individuals who may not fully comprehend how technology works, therefore not knowing where they are most exposed.
I thought it prudent to share a photo of what the world’s largest hacker group looks like.
“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.” Edward Snowden
Please Add Your Tips In Comments
If you have any advice to add from your own experiences, please add them in the comments. This is by no means a definitive article, just some tips and starting point to help everyone travels safely.
Disclaimer: CryptoCanucks.com is not intended to provide tax, legal or investment advice, and nothing on CryptoCanucks.com should be construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any asset by CryptoCanucks.com or any third party. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether any investment, asset or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal and financial situation. You should consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.