Privacy and Security News and Tips 20160621

There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.Stephen King, Different Seasons

Weekly Tip

With the summer travel season in full swing and the current state of our world it is wise to be prepared for problems,which brings us to a tip I read some time ago and have had in practice since then with minor adjustments for changing technology and environments.

Protecting your Personally Identifiable Information

Think about the contents of your wallet or purse. How many credit and debit cards, id cards, medical information, passports, etc do you have or take when you travel? What happens if you lose them or they are stolen? Do you have medical issues, severe allergies, medical devices? What would you do if you were in a foreign country and had to replace the cards, prove who you are, or needed medical attention after having your wallet or purse stolen? Have you ever thought about making an emergency flash drive to carry your important information securely. I have, and that is today’s tip. To make this drive you will need a few items.

  • A physically small flash drive that is at least 2 GB formatted with exFat for maximum compatibility
  • A copy of VeraCrypt
  • Access to a scanner

The basic layout is as follows.

  1. Format the drive exFat
  2. In the root of the flash drive you will have a text file (MUST BE PLAIN TEXT) with some basic information (name, address, phone, “I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN”, “I HAVE INSURANCE”, include emergency contacts also) Title this file EMERGENCY.
  3. A file titled “Medical” that lists your medications, and allergies to drugs, foods, or bugs, as well as your primary care physician’s contact information. This document says “I HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE” at the top of it, so that you don’t run the risk of being denied treatment. If you have traveler’s insurance, put that info in here as well.
  4. A file of “credit card contact info” with details for each card you carry. Use this to quickly cancel your cards if your wallet is lost or stolen. Do not include the CC number, CVV, or expiration date. That data is in the secured partition of the drive.
  5. A scanned image copy or digital photo of your insurance card, front and back.
  6. A web browser. You can get portable versions of Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers that will run directly from the drive—more secure than using a public terminal loaded with who-knows-what snoopware.
  7. Install VeraCrypt and create a portable install on the flash drive
  8. Create an encrypted container on the flash drive approx 1GB in size and make sure to use a memorable but highly secure password
  9. In the container you will have the following items:
    1. Scanned copies of each of your credit and debit cards, front and back. (jpg format)
    1. A file titled “CCNs” that lists the account numbers, expiration dates, and CVVs of your cards as well as the toll-free contact numbers and international collect call numbers for each company. (plain text)
    2. The routing and account number for bank accounts, phone numbers to your local bank’s branch office. Be ready to have money wired or to freeze accounts. (plain text)
    3. Scanned copies or digital photos of your passport, your driver’s license, and at least one other form of state-issued photo identification. (jpg format)

Now that you have this drive, you will need to determine the best means of transport and security for the location and environment. There are drives that are “rugged” and will be fine on their own in most environments, but if you will be in a rainy location you may consider a watertight container. The drive should be on you at all times while traveling and should not be on your keys in case of theft. I carry mine in a “go tube” inside my clothing, but you can wear it as a necklace under your clothes or secure it to the inside of your clothes somehow. The idea is to have it not be subject to a pickpocket or being lost.

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