By Dave Wall
As the school year comes to a close, families will be preparing for their annual summer vacations. Whether they’re heading off to a golf resort, a Caribbean island, a tour of Europe, an amusement park, or anywhere else, they’re all looking forward to some down time away from work and school to spend with their families. Regardless of their destinations, one thing is certain – they’ll want to stay in touch with friends and family members, and many will even spend a few hours each day working.
That means they will be looking for ways to connect to the Internet, which also means there’s a good chance they’ll cross paths with hackers targeting unsuspecting vacationers. As mobile device use continues to grow, and as an increasing number of tasks can be accomplished on them, users are constantly looking for ways to connect, whether it’s to post the latest vacation photos to Facebook, pay a credit card bill, make dinner reservations, or play online games.
Cyber criminal recognize the need to stay connected and look for ways to target unsuspecting users. Vacationers can be an easy target. They are often looking for easy access and depend on public WiFi access points to get online and, despite constant education from media and government organizations and service providers, many people aren’t careful enough when signing onto WiFi hotspots, ignoring the risks of connecting to unknown or unsecured networks, which make it very easy for hackers to intercept communications and steal sensitive data.
Often, they’ll set up open networks (access points with no password encryption) with SSIDs that appear to be legitimate networks – they might include a hotel or restaurant or some other name that sounds official – hoping to lure users onto their networks. Hackers then need only be within range of the hotspot to intercept data, or they may send users to a false landing page with a link to “register,” which actually installs malware on their devices, allowing the thieves to access any stored data, including bank account and other financial information.
Here are a few tips to help you keep your devices and sensitive data secure when you travel anywhere outside your trusted home network.
- Never use open WiFi (those without password protected access).
- Make sure lock screens and security are active on any devices.
- Avoid any online shopping or other financial activity.
- Use cash, travelers checks, or gift cards in lieu of credit cards to avoid account information being stolen, especially internationally.
- Don’t use, accept or click on links, websites, attachments, or flash drives that could give hackers access to your devices.
- Consider connecting through a VPN, even if you are using a secure WiFi connection. Most public access points aren’t yet using the latest encryption technology. A VPN will help protect your information even if it is intercepted.
While these guidelines may require a few extra steps when you’re getting online, they will help protect you falling victim to identity theft and subsequent fraud, which can take years to overcome. Staying informed of the latest fraud schemes and security threats can also help. Sign up for our security eNewsletter to keep yourself up to date on everything you can do to help keep you and your family safe on vacation, at home, or anywhere else you find yourself.