How to Work Securely from an Airbnb or VRBO

Post by
Net Friends

Your bags are packed, the dog is at the sitter, and it is time to head out on your holiday adventure. Or perhaps you are a wandering professional, embracing the digital nomad lifestyle. Whatever brings you to settle into an Airbnb or VRBO, with your devices, prioritizing your digital security is critical. Here are some pro-tips to help you protect yourself:

1. Prepare Before You Depart

Before you leave, there are some steps you can take to secure your technology. Be sure to back up all your data before departure, that way if anything happens to your device, you will minimize your loss. Also, update your software – you should be doing this regularly, but it is especially important before you travel.

2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

It is widely recommended to avoid unprotected Wi-Fi networks, and this caution extends to Wi-Fi at your rental accommodation. Previous guests could have tampered with the router, creating a trap to harvest your data.

When you do need to connect to the internet, using a virtual private network (VPN) service is essential. VPNs obscure your physical location and Internet Service Providers (ISP), making it tough for hackers to track your online actions or intercept your data. By using a VPN, all your network activity is encrypted, creating a secure passage between your device and a private network. This places you within a secure bubble, shielded by your organization's firewall and security protocols.

If you do not have access to your company VPN, there are both free and paid services that you can take advantage of while you are traveling:

  • Proton VPN does not impose a lot of restrictions or limitations and has no data caps. You can put Proton VPN on all your devices but can only connect one at a time.
  • Nord VPN is a great option and allows 6 devices to connect at one time. If you only want to purchase a month of service, it is $13.

3. Look for Cameras or Tracking Devices

It is wise to exercise caution when arriving at your rental property, not merely due to paranoia but based on concrete data. A 2023 survey by Vivint Security revealed that 10% of hosts admitted to having concealed cameras on their premises. Additionally, an IPX1031 survey in the same year found that 25% of guests have discovered hidden cameras, with 20% located outdoors and 5% inside the rental property.

Airbnb’s policy allows for cameras and recording devices, provided they are disclosed and do not compromise guest privacy. VRBO, on the other hand, bans them from inside the premises but permits smart devices if guests are properly notified.

Upon arrival, make it a point to inspect each room, particularly those you will use for your tech activities. Keep an eye on items like smoke detectors, radios, and power outlets, and be wary of any unusual blinking lights—hidden cameras are often embedded within such commonplace objects. For added safety, position your devices in a way that sensitive information, like passwords, cannot be easily observed or captured on video.

4. Navigating Public Wi-Fi

When you are limited to public Wi-Fi, consider two secure approaches: utilizing a VPN or tethering via your mobile device.

Employing a VPN on public Wi-Fi is your securest choice. It encrypts your online activity, offering significantly more security than tethering.

Should mobile tethering be your only choice, ensure that your hotspot is secured with a password. Use an encryption method like WPA2 for enhanced security, and always keep your device's security settings current.

Remember, hackers prefer low-hanging fruit when scouting public Wi-Fi networks. They are less likely to attempt breaking into your connection if it is tightly secured.

5. Managing Your Environment

Maintaining awareness of your surroundings plays a vital role in safeguarding both your personal and digital security. It is important to be observant and mindful of the people around you, staying vigilant against anyone who seems overly interested in your activities. Such attentiveness is a key defensive measure, as it is often unclear who might have intentions of stealing your devices or covertly observing as you input passwords on your phone.

Safeguarding Against Theft

Our mobile devices are gold mines for thieves. In the event of theft, a thief can rapidly access your banking and credit card applications to carry out transactions, then erase and sell your device.

While traveling, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and distractions of new sights and experiences. Keep your phone hidden when you are on the move; thieves have become adept at snatching devices straight from our hands.

Defending Against Shoulder Surfing

Be conscious of who is around when you are on your device. Position yourself so onlookers cannot see your screen, protecting your passwords. Biometric logins offer a substantial defense, making it difficult for snoops to access your information. Employing two-factor authentication (2FA) adds another layer of security to foil any attempt at spying. Once you return home, make it a practice to change your passwords.

Safe & Secure Travels!

As you pack your bags and lock your doors, remember to secure your digital life as well. In the end, it is not just about where you go, but how safely you can navigate the digital landscapes along the way. Net Friend is here to help if you need a company VPN or implementing other security policies. Safe travels and secure log-ins!

Originally Published: August 12, 2022
Revised & Updated: February 5, 2024

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