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Traveling Internationally

Keep Your Data Safe While Traveling Overseas


Keep Your Data Safe While Traveling Overseas

Whether at home or abroad there are a lot of cybersecurity threats that can put you and your personal data at risk, but this threat is even more perilous when you travel overseas. What steps have you taken to keep your data safe? Here are five key things you should be doing to protect against cyber security threats:


1. Change Your Passwords

Before you travel abroad, change all of your passwords on all of your devices. Your passwords should never be simple, like “password,” or use personally-identifying information, such as your name, birthdate, etc. Instead, opt for passwords that are at least eight characters long and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. When possible, you should also enable two-factor authentication.

2. Enable Auto-Delete

In the event that your device is stolen or misplaced, you want to have an extra safety measure in place. Make sure you enable auto-delete, a feature that will automatically erase all of the data in your device if someone incorrectly enters the password a set number of times.

3. Look for Anti-Theft Software

As an added level of protection, download anti-theft software to all of your devices. This software should allow you to remotely lock your device in the event that is it lost or stolen so you can take steps from there to locate it or erase all of your personal data. And while you’re downloading, make sure you’re only enabling apps that protect your personal information, like Virtual Halo.

4. Disable WiFi Auto-Connect

You should only connect to WiFi when you know it is safe and secure, no matter where you are on the map; but especially in foreign territory you want to be extra careful. Before you leave home soil, make sure you disable WiFi auto-connect features so you have to manually connect. If you know you will need to access sensitive data overseas, search for a secure VPN connection you can temporarily use.

5. Turn Off Bluetooth Connectivity

Along the same lines as WiFi, you want to turn off your Bluetooth connectivity. Cyberthreats can instantaneously seize opportunities to access your personal data through either WiFi or Bluetooth, so keep them out by turning it off altogether.

6. Keep Your Devices with You at All Times

Modern society is practically glued to their smart devices, but as a reminder: always keep your devices with you and in your sight. It only takes a second for them to go missing!


What To Do During An Earthquake


What To Do During An Earthquake

The major earthquake that happened in Italy last week should be a reminder to all of us that mother nature needs to stretch every now and then as well. For us, we were especially shaken up because two close family members were vacationing near the affected area in Italy when the earthquake happened. 

Focussed on an unplugged vacation, they felt the earth shake around 3:30 in the morning, but didn't understand the shear magnitude of damage and severity until late the following afternoon. They got up at the normal time and went out on an excursion in the ocean. Meanwhile, our family was trying to reach them all day. Not until they got back to their hotel and saw all fo the missed calls did they realize that something wasn't right. A couple quick texts and a Virtual Halo Check In put everyone stateside back at ease.

When you're traveling in an area that has a natural disaster, think about those close to you - chances are they're more worried than you are; make sure to give them peace of mind by knowing you're fine.

If you find yourself in an earthquake, follow the steps below - they could save your life (reprinted from the Earthquake Country Alliance). In most situations, following these precautions will greatly reduce potential for injury.

  1. Drop - onto your hands and knees (before the earthquake knocks you down). This position protects you from falling, but still allows you to move to safety.
  2. Cover - your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  3. HOLD ON - to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

The area near the exterior walls of a building is the most dangerous place to be. Windows, facades and architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse. To stay away from this danger zone, stay inside if you are inside and outside if you are outside. 

Indoors: Drop, Cover, and Hold On Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it firmly. Be prepared to move with it until the shaking stops. If you are not near a desk or table, drop to the floor against the interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets with heavy objects or glass. Do not go outside! 

In bed: If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways. 

In a high-rise: Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Avoid windows and other hazards. Do not use elevators. Do not be surprised if sprinkler systems or fire alarms activate. 

Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards. 

Driving: Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire. 

In a stadium or theater: Stay at your seat and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don't try to leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out slowly watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks. 

Near the shore: Drop, Cover, and Hold On until the shaking stops. Estimate how long the shaking lasts. If severe shaking lasts 20 seconds or more, immediately evacuate to high ground as a tsunami might have been generated by the earthquake. Move inland 3 kilometers (2 miles) or to land that is at least 30 meters (100 feet) above sea level immediately. Don't wait for officials to issue a warning. Walk quickly, rather than drive, to avoid traffic, debris and other hazards. 

Below a dam: Dams can fail during a major earthquake. Catastrophic failure is unlikely, but if you live downstream from a dam, you should know flood-zone information and have prepared an evacuation plan. 

Additionally, we recommend that you and your entire family have Virtual Halo installed and active on your cell phone. By sending a Check In, you're able to let your family know where you are in case you get separated, and they'll know you're ok.


Adventure of the Week - # 1 - Bali


Adventure of the Week - # 1 - Bali

Each week, we're featuring a journey, an adventure, a unique event somewhere around the world. It could be in your back yard, or it could require four flights, a tuk tuk ride and you helping crew a junk across one of the vast stretches of water that cover our planet. We travel - a lot! It's in our blood, it's who we are. All Adventures that we write about we've done - unless you've got one that's so awesome, we need to share it. Got an adventure that competes? Email us your experience and who knows, it might be featured!

Our Founder, Josh at the Besakih Temple on Bali

Our Founder, Josh at the Besakih Temple on Bali

Adventure # 1 - Bali

Bali is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but getting there isn't one of the easiest, although it's worth the journey. From the US, you typically need to traverse to Australia and then take a 3-hour flight from Melbourne to Denpasar, Indonesia, which is on the island of Bali. The US State Department has listed Indonesia in its list of "Worldwide Caution." They've also assessed the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Indonesian air carrier operations. While their advice is extremely valuable and should be headed, we believe that life is about the journey. Weigh the risks and choose for yourself as long as you're not breaking the law.

Once you've made it to Bali, the main tourist spot is Kuta Beach. It's beautiful, but can be crowded. You'll find yourself one of the only American's to be found, but in a sea of German, British and Australian tourists. English isn't a problem - everyone speaks it that we encountered. While there are a ton of cheap motels around Kuta, you need to think about what you're looking for. Are you going to go out to the bars and clubs each night? Just lounge on the beach? Or do you want a more secluded stay? Bali has it, but if you want quiet, Kuta is not for you.

Unfortunately, the backdrop of Kuta has been slightly diminished by the site of Western chains such as McDonalds. This is unfortunate. Do yourself a favor and bypass the urge for a Big Mac. Sure, there's a novelty to say you've eaten a Big Mac in each country, but is that really something to be proud of? We think not.

Instead, explore the city on foot. You can go inland 3-5 blocks and that's all you need to get out of the tourist centric areas. You'll smell the sweet scent of incense burning and see the offerings laid at the foot of shop doors, placed on car dashboards and on the desks of hotels everywhere. Bali is unique in a way that it has a split religious population; about 50% of the people are Hindu and the remaining 50% are Muslim.

While on Bali, make sure you get a Thai massage. Everything on Bali is less expensive than the United States (except entrance to the Hard Rock Hotel pool complex - which is amazing!), so give it a try. Our experience was that everything can be negotiated. During our time on Bali, we never spent more than $5.00 for an hour-long massage. For the modest-minded people, be warned - they have you strip naked in front of them and lay down; apparently, they have no modesty.

Another great thing to do is to rent a cab driver and his car for the day. When we did this, it cost about $30, and we drove into the city, visited traditional art houses, ventured around 3-story tall ancient statues in the middle of roundabouts. We went further into the island to see the volcano crater lake, rice plantations and visited several ancient temples including the Pura Besakih temple complex (pictured above), which were beyond compare.

As a guy wearing shorts, I had to purchase a sarong to cover my legs and then was on my way up the hill to the high temple with a guide ($2). He taught me how to pray the traditional prayers and explained the significance of the structures and houses within the temple complex, the offerings that people left each day and what their God expected of them. Oddly enough, on my way back down, we came upon an honest to God cockfight. That was a first. The locals were nervous with a 6'4", 270# white American stood over them watching their chickens fight, but I didn't mean any harm and they finally figured that out (my guide had a little to do with smoothing things over).

Without a doubt, you'll be surprised at the smog, the motorcycles that know no lane and the tangle of overhead electrical lines. The chaos of Bali is in stark contrast to its tranquility, beauty and calm. You can be yourself, explore nature, work with the islanders to learn their forms of art, or relax on the beach. We've assembled a top 5 list of things to do in Bali while you're there. You won't be disappointed.

Our Top 5 List of Things To Do in Bali:

5.) Dine at a live volcano - The Madu Sari Mountain Restaurant
4.) pend time at a few unknown beaches - we like Nyang Nyang Beach for its towering green cliff and pristine sands
3.) Experience a day as a Balinese Rice Farmer - in Tabanan
2.) Visit an abandoned place - the abandoned plane parked between a few houses in Kuta, the defunct amusement park Taman Festival, or the uncompleted hotel Taman Rekreasi Bedugul for an adventure you won't forget. Click here for more info.
1.) Visit a hidden underwater temple - The Pemuteran temple was deliberately constructed underwater for divers and snorkelers and is very impressive. It's on Bali's "quiet" side of the island.

One thing to keep in mind while in Bali or anywhere else - stay alert. Everyone wants your money, whether through goods and services, or by pickpocketing. It's ok to say no if you don't want a massage, or their car service or to buy their trinkets. Keep moving - like Dory, if you just keep moving, it's hard for them to corner you into a compromising situation. When traveling internationally, we also recommend registering with the US State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Now, get out there and have an adventure! Enjoy Bali!



Safety Knows Fewer Boundries

Today, Virtual Halo is excited to announce that we've expanded our service into two additional countries - residents of the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic are now able to download the Virtual Halo app from their respective App Store's and utilize Virtual Halo's award winning services.

Residents of these island nations often feel isolated and haven't had a tool that could notify their trusted group of family and friends in the event of an emergency; now they do.

The outbound number that sends the text based notifications will remain the same at (309) 213-2823, which is the authenticated number that broadcasts all Virtual Halo based notifications.

Pricing for the app will remain the same - FREE for the download and to utilize the SOS feature; to unlock the enhanced features, including the Check In and Going Out modules, residents of the Bahamas and Dominican Republic will be charged the equivalent of $1.99 per month in their respective currencies.


Lessons to learn from Turkey Airport Bombing


Lessons to learn from Turkey Airport Bombing

Uncertainty is everywhere. Last week, Great Britain chose to leave the European Union; markets are in turmoil, and the US election has made our country the laughing stock of the world.