Starting a life in a new country is a huge step. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting and lots of fun. You probably thought of everything – where you’re going to stay, how you’re going to handle the paperwork and translations, how you’re going to make money, what you’re going to do to meet new people, and so on.
But did you take the security into account? Like your wellbeing and safety, and how you’re going to keep your online data safe?
The last thing you want is to end up in a dangerous situation. Or have your login credentials and credit card details stolen by hackers because you used unsecured WiFi.
If you haven’t considered that, no problem – we’ll offer you some tips that should help you stay safe:
1. Check the Political Situation & Crime Levels
It’s always a good idea to check how politically stable the country is first. You don’t want to end up in the middle of protests or military clashes, after all.
Online research should provide you with all the information you need. Don’t forget to reach out to expats and natives the country you want to move to. They should be able to offer you accurate info about the current and future political situation. You should also contact your country’s foreign department to see what they can tell you about the destination you chose.
Also, check the crime levels in the country, city, and area you’re moving to. Obviously, you should take everything with a grain of salt as online opinions are often exaggerated. But you need to be aware if you have to take special precautions to protect yourself from pickpockets or robberies. For example, while Argentina is generally safe, it’s still rated as among the most dangerous places to live. In the capital, it’s wise to not wear flashy clothing or use your phone in plain sight while waiting at a bus stop.
Oh, and don’t forget to check with your insurance provider if they can provide you with the desired coverage in the country you’re moving to (some of them don’t provide coverage for certain destinations).
2. Don’t Use Unsecured Public WiFi
Who doesn’t love free WiFi, right? You get Internet access on the go whenever you need it.
Sounds cool, but here’s what’s wrong with this – free WiFi is not secure. These hotspots often don’t use encryption, meaning anyone can spy on your traffic. Hackers could steal sensitive data from you or use MITM attacks to redirect you to phishing sites.
In fact, not even secured networks are safe since cybercriminals can find ways to exploit them. Not to mention they could use a simple device that doesn’t cost more than $100-$200 to create fake WiFi networks. Once they trick your device into connecting to them, they can log all your traffic to steal important information.
So we recommend not using free WiFi networks – not even the ones at the airport or government institutions!
3. Use a VPN
VPNs are online services that hide your IP and encrypt your traffic. As an expat, they’re a must-have. Encrypting your traffic means they make it unreadable to anyone – even seasoned cybercriminals and government surveillance agencies. If they try to spy on your data, they’ll just see gibberish.
For example, instead of seeing that you’re sending a connection request to “paypal.com,” they’d see something like “FHGtrf54frsHFgresj.”
Best of all – VPNs can keep you safe on unsecured WiFi and fake hotspots. Hackers can’t abuse security vulnerabilities because the VPN’s encryption’s there to protect you. We still recommend not using free WiFi if possible, though.
Also, by hiding your IP, VPNs protect your privacy and help you bypass censorship. If you’re going to countries like China that block popular Western sites, you’ll need a VPN to get around those draconian restrictions.
Other perks of using a VPN include:
- Stopping bandwidth throttling (when ISPs slow down your speeds).
- Unblocking geo-restricted sites (like Netflix and Hulu).
- Being able to prevent annoying ad tracking.
To read more online security guides for expats that cover VPNs, we recommend checking out ExpatTech. It has tons of useful articles that teach you everything you need to know about using a VPN or staying safe online as an expat.
4. Research the Local Law and Culture
You have to be well acquainted with the local law, culture, and customs before you move. That covers anything from dress codes to gestures. You don’t want to accidentally offend a cashier or someone on the street without even knowing it. That can land you in some pretty serious and sometimes even risky situations.
You should also know the differences in local law. Even small things like whether or not you’re allowed to carry an open beer bottle on the street makes a huge difference. Just because that’s allowed in your home country doesn’t mean it might be okay to do where you’re planning to move to. If you’re not careful, you might end up getting a huge fine!
5. Get Antivirus Protection
Hackers often use malware to compromise your devices. They can infect WiFi networks, public computers, or your device (if they successfully target you with phishing attacks).
The best line of defense is an antivirus program. It can eliminate all malware traces the moment it detects them. Just be sure to leave the software on at all times.
What Else Should Expats Do?
Do you know other measures expats should take when moving to a new country to make sure they’re safe? Please mention them in the comments. If you can offer advice based on your own experience, even better.