Extra Protection While Traveling
The United States State Department has a program to help you while you travel internationally. Travelers are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. The State Department uses security messages to convey information to you about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, along with information about natural disasters.
Enrollment is free and it creates an account that includes your contact information along with how to get in touch with your emergency contacts should something happen. You use the account online to update your travel information before and while you travel, which is automatically transferred to embassies and consulates near your travel locations.
Sometimes having Big Brother watch you might be a good thing…
You’re traveling and you go to recover your email and, without warning, access is denied. If you travel overseas and you haven’t experienced it yet, you eventually will. We already use or have used multiple email accounts with primarily Google, Apple and MicroSoft and have had degrees of this issue with each one.
Our experience is that MS Outlook is the most problematic and difficult to get working again but almost all of them have similar protocols. They detect that you are accessing your account from an international IP address, think that you are being hacked and then lock your account and send out a notice to that effect. You can arrange to be notified by most of them via text message but you still have to go thru the process of going online, verifying your account information and confirming that you were the one that triggered the event; all while using unsecured public internet service or paying an internet fee. There have also been times when our emails just stop, leaving us to try and figure out what happened.
Frequently our email begins to get delayed for hours or a day while traveling and we’ve never found an explanation. When that happens it is usually a problem that effects most of our email accounts and is something we have just accepted in the past. The issue where access gets denied is, at times, a much bigger bother.
A couple of years ago we looked into options that would avoid these issues and we found GMX. This is a German based email provider that actually promotes their solution to the problem. It seems they just don’t put the sort of security systems in place that Gmail and Outlook use. Maybe for some that is problematic but we are not sure what value hackers would get from reading our email, other than picking up an address or two. We have set up a number of GMX accounts and when we travel we have email forwarded to them. This avoids the problem with the main accounts and we can also selectively forward specific emails like notices of credit card transactions or messages from specific people. All in all this approach has worked out pretty well.
Another tip regarding email: if you are concerned that you are not getting messages and you use an email application, the best way to double check is to use a browser and log directly into your email server (Apple iCloud account, Google Gmail account, etc.). We also request that our family members and friends time and date their e-mails at the beginning of the text so we can be made aware of excessive delays. (We know we can display the “long header” and get this info, but having it in the text is easy to recognize and actually more accurate).
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