expat network

How To Protect Your Online Data As An Expatriate


You may have left for a short-term adventure that turned into a life-long love of a foreign country and you’ve found bliss on the beaches of Mexico, finding a laidback way of life where your money stretches further. Perhaps you’ve found a new life in Europe, Australia or Asia. No matter where you wind up, it’s important to know how you can best protect your online data while living abroad under different laws.



Protect Your Online Presence

The first data to protect is your online information. Data breaches have become a fact of life. At some point, your username and password will be stolen. Digital thieves use credential stuffing to access more of your accounts once they have a single username and password. It allows them to access any account where you’ve duplicated your user name and password. Even if the accounts don’t each have a lot of personal data, thieves can build up a picture of you and compile information with each account they can access.


Use Multi-Factor Authentication

To protect yourself from hacking through this and other methods, there are several steps. The first is to use accounts that have multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication won’t stop the bad guys from knowing that your account is legitimate, but it will stop them from hijacking it. Multi-factor authentication means you must have knowledge of your account, your username and password along with another factor, such as access to a device by providing a code sent to your phone or email, or proof of identity like a fingerprint.


Evaluate Your Data Providers

Besides multi-factor authentication, you need to look at the security and policies of companies that have access to your personal information. Most importantly, evaluate the security of whatever banking institution you are using. Don’t assume that your money or your personal information has the same guarantees as in the U.S. Look for banks and data custodians that use micro segmentation to prevent cyber attacks. Check for insurance against fraudulent use of your funds. Make sure each entity has a clear policy about selling or sharing your data that’s acceptable. Find out if they train their employees to protect your information. Are all of your transmissions and data encrypted?

What you’re willing to accept determines where you do business, but don’t accept terms that put you at risk. Often you can continue to do your banking through a U.S. bank while living overseas. Check for fees associated with currency exchange and decide if the protection of the FDIC outweighs potential costs. If you are in nearly any large city in the world, you should be able to use your debit card and access ATMs.


Use a VPN

The first two options rely on the systems your data partners use, but this last one, using a Virtual Private Network, is something you can do to actively protect yourself from hackers trying to steal data directly from you. Using a VPN is the number one step you can take to protect your personal information from your end. Public wi-fi is often used by criminals to track your keystrokes in an effort to access your usernames and passwords, as well as any personal information you may send over the internet, like credit card numbers and PINs. A VPN creates a secure network within a larger network, keeping your information private. Besides protecting personal information that could be stolen, it also allows you free access to the internet, even in countries that practice information censorship. Some countries will try to block your access to news or social media, but a VPN easily overcomes those hidden firewalls.


Living abroad is an adventure. Dealing with stolen money or a stolen identity while living overseas, however, is a nightmare. Keep your dream life by practicing good data hygiene.