Holidaymakers urged to protect themselves against cybercriminals

People heading off on holidays are being warned to take extra care when logging onto public WiFi networks due to the threat of cybercriminals.

Whether on holiday or a fact-finding trip with a view to moving to a different country permanently, the likelihood is that many of us will take a device that allows us quick and easy access to the internet.

Free WiFi at places like cafes, airports, restaurants and city streets is used by almost everyone who’s traveling. But people are being warned to pay more attention to where they connect to WiFi. According to NordVPN, once of the world’s most advanced VPN (virtual private network) service providers, far too few travellers take the extra step to make sure their browsing is not only convenient, but also safe.

The most common ways of how hackers take advantage of public WiFi hotspots have been the same for years. Yet travellers are still falling into the trap.

Honeypot WiFi

The most common threat is a hacker positioning himself as a WiFi hotspot – the so-called honeypot WiFi. In this scenario, cybercriminals set up fake WiFi hotspots, which are usually free and lure unsuspicious travellers into using them. If you connect to such a hotspot, all your personal information will be sent to a hacker. And that could include credit card details, private emails, and any other sensitive information.

Wireless sniffers

Another popular tactic for cybercriminals is to use sniffers, a software designed to intercept and decode data when it is transmitted over a network. Wireless sniffers are specifically created for capturing data on wireless networks but are normally used by IT specialists to track the health of a system and diagnose problems. When a sniffer falls into a hacker’s hands, it can be easily applied to monitor and decode another person’s private data.

Shoulder surfing

This one requires the least amount of technical knowledge. If you are checking your online banking account or using credit card data in a crowded coffee shop or an airport, remember that there might be data thieves lurking around. Cybercriminals will watch over your shoulder to memorise passwords or credit card information that you enter into your device. Just as it’s important to be careful when entering a PIN number into an ATM, it’s important to make sure no one is looking over your shoulder when going online at a public WiFi hotspot.

Even the legitimate hotel or airport WiFi is also not safe because it’s a public network. A hacker can connect to an open network anytime to snoop on users’ online activity, steal passwords and other personal data.

So what should you do?

“Number one thing that all travellers should do to feel safe is to ensure that the information they transmit online is encrypted,” says says Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN. “In this case, a VPN is something that can help. It safely encrypts all information that a user enters online into a secure tunnel.

“Other steps that users need to take are often common sense – to install latest security updates, use strong passwords, back up their information, and so on.”

The NordVPN expert advises not to share personal laptops or smartphones with strangers, and never keep such items unsecured. Before traveling, think how many gadgets you really need – it might be a good idea to leave those at home. Travellers should also avoid using unknown USBs or accept them as presents.

Using a VPN when browsing can protect a user against snooping and malware that targets online access points. That’s especially relevant when using a public hotspot.

Article published 15th August 2018