Thoughts on security as a nomad

2022-01-24 @Travel

I’m not as consumed by the question of security as I once were.

Most of the time I leave my tablet unlocked, especially as it remains largely static at whatever space I call home at any given moment. And I’ve probably left it unattended in public spaces more often than warranted.

If I were robbed of the device, the loss wouldn’t extend much beyond the tablet market value, and the time to acquire and reconfigure a replacement, an effort which diminishes with each iteration despite my laziness to devise hardcore automations.

Any data of personal value is backed up and synced (with bipocket). Anything requiring the password manager intervention demands a master password.

But that’s a moot point, for with even the device unlocked, the tablet thief wouldn’t struggle to engage my terminal setup, nor would care to. It would become a question of reimaging, repurposing, or reselling the device.

Shortly after my technophobe travel writeup, I’ve also considered transitioning a severe part of my terminal workflow to a VPS as one means of even further minimizing the physical device liability.

The offline configuration to interface with this VPS would be simple. At its core, it need only store the credentials to access the VPS, along with the minimal setup for performing at least some labor offline.

Replicating the setup of such a low hardware-spec, ‘dumb terminal’ tablet would be quick. Meanwhile, the cost of this additional ‘workflow VPS’ would likewise not be anything extravagant - around a few dollars USD per month for the minimal specs I require, deployed for only as long as such technophobe travel lasts.

The only substantial consequence: more tasks would demand an internet connection. However, it need not be anything as frequent as common usage, if we are to respect a more disconnected technophobe travel per the write-up. Otherwise it would defy the very purpose.

The password workflow, on the other hand, demands some thought. I use the pass password manager for mostly all credential storage. With the loss or theft of my tablet-computer, I’d also lose immediate access to any passwords or private keys for accessing emergency services such as email, any online VPSs, or any sites requiring two-factor authentication (also tied to the tablet).

In light of the above, I’ve made a habit of carrying some passwords (and two-factor backup codes) printed out, although in a somewhat obfuscated form. If a common thief even stumbled across this sheet of paper, its contents and purpose wouldn’t lend to immediate clarity.

Beyond these basics, I don’t take ultra measures to protect my physical belongings, in spite of whatever risks exist. Nor is there really a foolproof measure.

Sometimes, and only when transitioning to new locales, I secure my backpack zipper with a combination lock I carry, and by far not always. This particular measure might prevent the mildly curious from opening the unattended backpack, but would in no way prohibit a full-scale robbery.

At an extreme case, if I were to part with every single belonging while a nomad in some random out-there crevice: computer, the dumb mobile phone, cash, ATM cards, all forms of ID, and any backup credentials (printed out or digital), that would make for an interesting few days of slight chaos involving phone calls, the consulate, trips to internet cafes, and emails through alternate email accounts.

I guess a part of me has been undergoing gradual psychological priming for such an eventuality, though no simulacrum can compare to the real thing.

The way I see it, whatever care or negligence I exercise (or don’t), I rather avoid the mindset of constant apprehension, a too high of an insurance premium to pay to minimize some chance of an otherwise modest financial sacrifice comprising nothing that can’t be replaced without great difficulty.

It’s an analogous case to taking overcaution in terms of physical safety, minding every known case of misdemeanor in any region travelled, considering all the dangers, the violence, the robberies, overly selective of where to go, where to avoid.

I don’t know about you, but such a mentality inevitably brings me to loose the joy of living, of the unpredictable, of the chaos that life comprises anyway. Don’t over-engineer travel security. Some ignorance, some naivety, some randomness can go a long way.

Questions, comments? Connect.