Planning a trip to China?
Nice –you’ll definitely see a ton of awesome stuff, experience unique cultures, eat food you’ve only dreamed of, and maybe even make new friends.
But there might be a problem – a few, actually. Going to China might be a great life experience, but the online threats you’ll deal with will certainly dampen your enjoyment.
What Digital Threats Do You Have to Worry About in China?
Here are the main things that can make it harder to enjoy your vacation:
Roughly 11% of WiFi networks in places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are not safe to use. That’s only 11% out of 68,000 networks researchers studied, but it still accounts for around 7,480 hotspots. So, your odds of connecting to one are pretty high.
Plus, WiFi as a whole isn’t actually safe to use since the current encryption standard has serious vulnerabilities.
Even worse, Chinese WiFi routers are known to have issues cybercriminals can exploit.
What that means for you is that some run-of-the-mill hacker could easily spy on your online communications whenever you’re using public WiFi at the mall, airport, train station, or the cute coffee shop near your hotel to check the map or do online banking.
Pushy Government Surveillance
If you happen to go to Xinjiang (like 200 million other tourists), you might have to deal with border guards who will secretly install or force you to install malware on your devices. Said malware will extract data like contacts, text messages, and emails.
Luckily, you can dodge that by using an iOS device since the malware only targets Android phones.
But get this – in some regions, the government actually forces WiFi providers to install surveillance tech on their networks. So your privacy isn’t something you can pack with you on your trip to China.
China is well-known for its Great Firewall – a huge government effort to block access to tons of popular websites. Here’s the full list, but some examples include Google, YouTube, Gmail, Reddit, and Facebook.
So, you’ll have a very hard time staying in touch with your loved ones, checking your emails, or just passing the time while you’re waiting for your flight, bus, or train.
Not to mention you won’t be able to relax with your favorite YouTube series, TV shows, and movies while you’re in bed back at your hotel after a long day of sightseeing.
How to Stay Digitally Safe When Traveling to China
All that stuff sounds pretty scary, right?
No doubt. But don’t worry – there are things you can do to keep your data safe, and your privacy intact when you visit China:
1. Bring a VPN with You
A VPN always comes in handy when you travel, but it’s especially useful in China.
For starters, the service will hide your IP address. That can help you bypass China’s strict firewalls. The new IP address you’ll get won’t have any firewall restrictions assigned to it – like your original IP address has (the one you get when you connect to your hotel’s network or any WiFi network in China).
Besides that, a VPN will also encrypt your Internet traffic. That helps you stay safe online – even on unsecured networks. Basically, all your traffic will be in an unreadable format, so not even the most skilled hacker will be able to spy on it.
Also, if you use a VPN with obfuscation technology, you won’t have to worry about it not working in China – a country that is pretty good at blocking VPN services.
Basically, obfuscation uses encryption algorithms to hide VPN ciphers from government detection.
NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs with obfuscation tech. It also has a Kill Switch to keep you safe even if your connection drops. Plus, you get access to thousands of servers, many of which support double VPN connections for enhanced security.
Check out the link I left to learn even more about the service.
2. Secure Your Accounts with a Password Manager
The last thing you want during your trip is someone hacking your passwords when you least expect it. And that’s likely to happen since China is actually a major target for cybercriminals looking to steal passwords.
Of course, having strong, complex passwords helps a lot. But keeping track of all of them is tough – especially when you use a different password for each account.
Well, that’s where a password manager comes into play. It’s software that stores all your passwords securely, and you only need to keep track of one master password.
Plus, password managers have auto- ill features. Basically, when you have to type in your login credentials, the manager does that for you automatically.
Also, some services even come with their own password generator, making it much simpler to change your credentials regularly.
3. Disable Bluetooth
Bluetooth is very useful if you need to send pictures or PDF tickets between devices without having to use WiFi or mobile data.
However, you need to remember turn it off when you’re done with the transfers, otherwise you open yourself up to serious risks.
Bluetooth has had serious vulnerabilities over the years – from making it possible for cybercriminals to hack a device in 10 seconds to exposing sensitive device data to hackers.
So, it’s not something to take lightly.
To Sum It All Up
Going to China can be a great adventure, but annoying online restrictions and digital threats can get in the way of your fun.
There’s good news, though – you don’t have to deal with any of that if you use a VPN, protect your accounts with password managers, and keep Bluetooth turned off.
If you know any other useful tips, go ahead and share them with the rest of us.
Edited by staff