How do you manage your signature when commuting or traveling to higher than normal risk cities and locations? You keep a low profile.
Cities around the country and the world are becoming more and more complex and, I dare say, more dangerous. NYC, where I commute most days, has really become a less safe place to be, forcing me and millions of other commuters to adapt how and when they commute to the city.
There are a few things you can do to be safer all around, especially when you are traveling to cities in other countries. In some cases you need to adjust your demeanor and how you dress to attract less attention, in other cases you need to rethink what you carry and how you carry it. In all cases, though, the less you project the better it is.
Once you know where you will be going, or the changes that are occurring to your current commuting place, make a plan.
Do a bit of research online, ask people that either have been there or commute there daily. Collect information and then assess the risk. Make decisions based on that risk. There is no way to avoid risk completely, but you can minimize it by either removing the threats (or moving yourself out of the areas where the threats are) or minimizing the weaknesses you have.
Your plan should stay simple and list key information, like best times to travel, areas to avoid, and stuff to bring.
The best safety measure is to not be there in the first place. However, if you need to be there, be forgettable. Behave and dress in a way that doesn’t warrant any second looks. If you are traveling to a different city or country, learn what the “normal” is for dressing code or behavior and learn it. Prepare for it and blend in.
If you are interacting with people, the conversation should remain simple and uninteresting. Just ask what you need and don't make someone think “what an awesome person! Let me ask more!” Again, it’s about being easy to forget.
When you go to an office in a new place, or your company has offices in another country, try not to vocalize strong opinions. Keep all your opinions to yourself and make sure you keep an eye on your body language. Often it reveals a lot about what you really are thinking.
Alongside your keeping a low signature, learn to read your surroundings. Identify who is not keeping a low profile, who stands out. Who is a threat and who is not. Learn the signs that something is about to happen.
This usually takes time, but the more you commute to a place, the better you will be at doing this, but short of spending a lot of time in a location, performing a bit of advanced reconnaissance and beginning to build a pattern of life is the way to go.
Keep your head in a swivel and away from your mobile device.
Speaking of mobile devices, if you are traveling to high risk areas, like certain parts of Asia, Africa or South America, make sure you use “burner” devices. Keep all those burner devices clean and only carry in what you need, do not bring extras “just in case” or devices that have any personal like to your normal life. Remember, burner devices should be free of the data that lives on your normal personal or work devices (emails, documents, messages, photos, contacts, etc).
While you’re commuting to the new areas or countries, make sure those devices remain clean or personal stuff. Only use them for what you need on the trip and - more importantly - wipe them clean when you return to your normal commuting or home. DO NOT CONNECT THEM TO ANY PERSONAL OR WORK NETWORK, that’s how you get breached.
Be mindful of what applications you install. For example, having Signal in many places is not an issue, but it may raise suspicion if you have it in other places. Same with completely clean web browser history, so make sure you always have some random sites you “browsed to”, like travel agencies pages, local tourist sites, reviews of restaurants, etc.
If you do need to bring a personal device, only connect it to a trusted network, and do not allow it to connect to a local cellphone network.
Minimize your risk!
As much as you can, avoid carrying backpacks, or other forms of luggage with you. Store stuff in pockets and make sure you have cash. Do not use credit cards or contactless payment systems. This will help you keep a low profile and minimize your signature even less, since you will leave no trace of payments or other forms of digital interaction.
One thing to really pay attention to is political or charged situations. If you find yourself near a demonstration or other emergency situations, try to find a quick way out. As part of your initial planning, you should have a good idea of what the streets are, and a safe place where you can go. Always map where the local embassy or consulate are, and how to get there, if you are in a different country.
Remember, do not follow the masses.
When in doubt be boring. Keep a low profile and remain safe.