Traveling Safe - Cybersecurity Tips for the Road

My wife and I recently visited beautiful Hill Country in Texas to refresh. We've been taking the opportunity I've had recently with being at home to go on adventures like this. I've noticed that when your home and office merge, planning quick getaways and establishing a firm work-life balance boundary becomes crucial. If I don't discipline myself early on, I'll find myself in the office at 2am automating figma layouts with AI bots. It's not healthy.

If I'm going to let it all hang out and slack my ass off, I need to have complete peace of mind. That means following a few rules I've adopted for safe travel over the years. Put on your Mean Ass Pants (or borrow mine) and allow yourself to think like a criminal shithead for a 'lil bit; I'll show you how to avoid some pitfalls of travel, both familiar and fresh. If none of that interests you, I have a nice tip for how to get chicken and waffles from a fast food chain that you might not expect. So. Something for everybody.

Cash is your Friend; Gas Stations Aren't

First up, hit the bank and get some cash. Any interaction you have with a card reader is a non-zero chance of having your card skimmed. Divide your cash up and place it in several areas so that if you find yourself robbed at any given moment, you've got cash elsewhere. You can use some logic regarding safe places to use your card. The local bistro with the iPad payment setup is probably fine, but the gas station pump with loose panels isn't. Get in the habit of knowing how much it takes to fill your gas tank by half and drop it in when you hit a quarter 'til empty. Pay cash in advance at the station, hit the pump, and, depending on where you are, keep a measured grip on your knife or gun while you wait for the gas to pump. Keep your head on a swivel, and welcome to America, motherfucker! You're carrying a wad of cash, in person or in the car, and the gas pump is one of the most common places to be robbed.

You're sitting at a nexus of cars that whip in and out all day, and no one will notice someone walking to another pump, casually brandishing a weapon, and asking for your shit. If it doesn't go well, their getaway vehicle is nearby, probably along with their backup, which is likely locking eyes with you and the cars surrounding you. Learn what these ambushes look like and how to avoid them. Never talk to or engage with anyone trying to get your attention at the pump. Make it clear you're not interested in conversation firmly and early. Hey, are you relaxed yet? Who gives a shit - you're safe. I'll let you know when to let down the hypervigilance, but the gas pump isn't it.

A final note on the trip to your destination - I'm a cheap bastard, but I also have poor impulse control when it comes to beef jerky and sugary drinks. I try to hit up a Costco or similar for snacks before a long haul. Failing that, I make some sandwiches or other finger foods. It helps with minimizing the time spent at the pump, too.

Welcome to your room; everyone wants to see your privates

Oh my, your privates! Am I talking about your supple, naked body or your personal information? Yes! So, that sucks that you have to guard both, but welcome to the dystopian nightmare of leisure travel. Lemme hit both of these areas real quick:

Your Body

Hidden cameras, voice recording bugs, and all sorts of goofy gadgets could be preying on you inside that room, but what to look for changes depending on where you're at. If you're at a chain hotel, you're likely safe from most recording devices (although checking mirrors is always a good idea), but using the in-suite wifi and HDMI ports is a no-no. You may want to scan for cameras if you're in an Airbnb, vrbo, or other small business type hotel room. You'll need a specialized tool to find hidden goodies like this, so consult your search engine of choice for something called a 'handheld infrared camera scanner'. Now, these things are a little expensive, but you'll find with some research that you can get a cheap facsimile for as low as $40 - this will find the most obvious lenses in your room, but as with most things, you get what you pay for. Smart money says around $300~400 is money well spent. Scan your room, put your bags in the bathroom, and then look for signs of bedbugs. That might be a bit of a switch-up, but those things are nasty as hell if you haven't ever read the horror stories. You get these two sections covered; consider your body reasonably safe. Now, as for

Your Data

Most hotels offer high-speed internet for guests, but their security measures for protecting customer data can be lacking. Hoteliers such as Starwood, Marriott, and Choice Hotels have suffered significant data breaches in the last several years, where customer information, including payment card information, was stolen. Use your own charging cables where possible, as even these can be concealed as elaborate devices designed to steal your information.

Cybersecurity has become a tremendous concern for many industries since COVID hit, and not everyone has adapted well. The hospitality industry has been incredibly shitty about this and, as such, are highly insecure areas. Awareness of your digital footprint in places like this is crucial. Depending on your location and the type of guests in the hotel, you may find yourself in an area frequented by hackers. Consider this - is the area you're staying in frequented by UHNWI, businesspeople, or otherwise whale-like individuals that a hacker might find to be an irresistible target? Yeah? So, going from bedbugs to celebrity shoulder-rubbing and the digital security concerns therein might be considered a bit of a stretch range-wise. Trying to cover a lot of bases here, friends; all this shit is important!

Watch for people watching your body, and pretend like all your digital devices need condoms. Use your own power strips if you can. If you're plugging a device into a plastic box and you don't know what's in the plastic casing, you really don't know what you're plugging into. How much of this is security, and how much of this is paranoia? Yes! Both. I can't tell you how much security to have or how much alcohol you can handle, but look - cybersecurity threats are heating up. Concierge cybersecurity services like BlackCloak highlight the need for services like these. So we've got you to your destination, and you're finally settled in. Now what?

Well, we enjoyed the Riverwalk and some of the local scenery. I also made time to settle into our modest cabin and write silly meandering shit like this. Check it out:

a beautiful waterfall. a popular feature of the american vacation.
my beautiful wife and then THIS dipshit
san antonio is nice.
off to my right is a laptop with a draft of this article on it. had to create my own leg rest. that's how it is when you're roughing it.

See? I didn't spend all my time wardriving and being a weirdo; I was having a totally nice and normal time with my wife, visiting in-laws, and eating delicious food. But now that I'm back from vacation, I am ready to be a certified freak again.

While I have projects revving up and some interviews this month, I am still looking to fill my dance card. Reach out if you need a website, logo, or snappy written content!

Oh oh the chicken and waffles thing

The Sonic Chicken and Waffles Hack

So this applies to Sonic, a fatty favorite of equally fatty midwesterners (me me me me me). Order the french toast sticks, a med-lrg of popcorn chicken, and a few pots of maple syrup. Bring hot sauce of your choice, I can’t remember if they have any, but I dump Louisiana on mine.

It’s not actually chicken and waffles, but it will kinda get you there. Cost me about 10 bones with a large coke so fuck it, not bad for a quick and dirty road trip lunch. Until next time!