Recently a friend of mine asked me how I get around internet safety issues for production when traveling. Often times, I’m only working from my laptop or my smartphone, answering emails, sending and receiving messages, writing notes or checking an itinerary. Occasionally we’ll also produce content for our site, or we may be producing a field shoot for clients. In either instance, we take the the security seriously, and you should too, especially if you’re getting paid. Your information security, whether its for business or private should be a major concern for you. Recently, there was an episode of HBO’s hit ‘Game of Thrones’ that was leaked by hackers. Also, in November of 2016, Seth Rogen’s movie, ‘The Interview’, had its release hacked by a group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace”; which many believe was a part of the North Korean government, whom, coincidentally – the movie was about.
If you happen to be running a business in media, keep in mind that you are operating against people who are likely a lot smarter than you when it comes to internet security, and may also have way more resources, so protecting yourself may seem impossible, but we shouldn’t make stealing our information easy either. At Fearlis, we have developed a list of practices that help us remain productive, and keep us safe. While some of these practices may have to be tweaked, depending on where you travel, fundamentally your concern for safety should be the same. There are the more obvious measures such as:
Before you leave, make sure you have backups in a safe place. Take advantage of using cloud storage for your raw footage – if your equipment does get stolen, you’ll still at least have your footage. Also if f you can afford it, see about getting your equipment insured.
Never leave your equipment unattended, most hotels now have modern security features for your safety, so its generally safe to leave some things locked in your room. Only take what’s necessary for your shoot, gadget theft and pick-pockets abound in countries with heavy tourist areas.
Switch off the Wi-Fi when you are not using it. Take your photos and video, post it later all at once after you’ve gotten a chance to relax, ‘cel phone zombies’ are easy targets for thieves, because they’re always looking down at their phones. Try not to look so touristy.
Make sure your software is up-to date with that its latest security protocols. Try to only use trusted proprietary apps when traveling. For instance instead of using an app that combines all of your emails or accounts into one app, use the actual company’s proprietary app. Download NOTHING on a public or semi-private network while you are away, you have no way of knowing if what you are downloading is illegitimate or from the actual manufacturer’s IP. Make certain that your computer, smartphone and camera settings are configured so that your systems request permission you before any downloads are saved.
Password protect your equipment. With Fearlis, we tend to use passwords that are very unique but can be easily remembered in a sentence or a phrase. Things like:
Whath@veyoudun4mELately? or IdontCnoR!ngzonthisF1nger
Even after all of this, you still need to have access to your network of clients, contractors and family. Most of the time when traveling, we may be limited to using internet connections that are either for public or semi-public use at places like a hotel, airport or a restaurant. Confirm with the hotel or cafe the actual name of their network and refrain from logging into your personal financial accounts.
Do not use bluetooth – if at all possible, avoid wireless transfers until you get home or back to base. If you have cameras that have blue-tooth functionality, make sure that it’s settings are set to off. Do not wait until you arrive to your destination to check on what services you will be using, try to check all of your shooting requirements when planning your itinerary.
Finally and most importantly, look into getting a Virtual Private Network or a VPN. A VPN is basically a private connection between your computer and any website or application. There are many benefits to setting up a VPN, if you are traveling overseas, you can often get cheaper accommodations when ordering from a Private Network, you can change your IP location so it looks like you’re in town making a reservation. So install and activate your VPN before you leave. You can encrypt your data, and access apps or sites that are otherwise unavailable in some countries.
Initially private networks were for business use, but now they can be purchased on the consumer market. VPNs will usually cost between $60 to $70 for a year, or around $10 to $15 a month. But getting a VPN can be tricky, make sure that there are no restrictions or extra fees for more than one login, make sure to check the provider’s network speeds, also that the service they provide has many endpoints or available ‘hops’. If one isn’t available, you can use another, also a hassle, but better than using nothing. Look to see if the provider has an app with ‘auto-connect’, this saves you the hassle of trying to remember to use the network or turning the Wi-Fi on and off. Another important aspect to pay attention to, is if your provider’s networks work in as many countries as possible, (Dubai has made some changes in their laws regarding VPNs recently, so check before you go). Shop around for what will work best for you but remain savvy, if something is too good to be true… it probably is, you’ll usually get what you pay for, so don’t be cheap. Keep these things in mind as a general practice, so you can focus more on what you need to do.
Stay safe, and be creative.