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Travelling? Be aware of Internet security risks

August 15th, 2012

Travelling? Beware of Internet security risks
Photo credit: JoySystems

If you think that public WiFi connection is safe, you better think again.

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center has recently warned that hackers are targeting guests data when they log into hotel Wi-Fi overseas.

The alert warns of a series of incidents where travellers encountered bogus software update pop-ups when they logged onto the Internet over their hotel’s Wi-Fi network. When they clicked “update”, malicious software was installed on their computers.

UK security strategist at Symantec, Sian John told CNN that hotel Wi-Fi connections are particularly risky because they are often set up without proper security settings, but that they are only part of the data-security risk facing business travellers.

“One of the major ways data loss happens is when people are travelling,” she said. “You are not in a secure area… That is where the risks tend to arise.”

Travellers should also beware Internet hotspots or accessing unsecured connections in public or at conference centers or business facilites. According to Gary Davis, McAfee’s director of global consumer marketing, there was a growing trend of hackers setting up mock Wi-Fi hotspots in public places, which appear at the top of the list of available connections.

“People will see ‘free Wi-Fi’ and click on it, and when they do that they open themselves up to great exposure,” he said.

Protect yourself

John says the best approach for business travellers, when using public Wi-Fi, is to remotely log into their employer’s virtual private network, or VPN, which ensures all data received and sent from a device is encrypted.

Normal travellers can better protect themselves by using encrypted protocols, simply by typing “https:” instead of “http:” at the beginning of URLs, although “https:” is not supported by all websites.

Avoid transmitting sensitive information, such as work documents or credit card details, over public Wi-Fi. Lastly, make sure your security updates are completed before travelling, keep a close eye on your possessions, and, like any traveller, give a wide berth to anything that seems slightly off.

“While there have been major cases of data loss as a result of deliberate corporate espionage,” John said, “there are also many, many instances of carelessness.”

“Wherever you’re travelling, take care of everything you’ve got. People take care of their passport – you need to take the same care of your information technology.”

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