Don’t get hacked this holiday

It’s that time of the year when we count down to the planned holidays ahead. But today, no vacation is device free; computers, tablets and phones are a part of the holiday experience, and in a digital world, many people still ‘check in’ at work.  Whilst free Wi-Fi has become more important than a comfortable bed when considering a hotel, what we need to keep in mind arethe many risks that come with public Wi-Fi hotspots, says Carey van Vlaanderen CEO of ESET Southern Africa. 

Free hotspots are increasingly used to steal information, and in the past year there has been an increase in the misuse of Wi-Fi in order to steal data, identity or passwords and money from the users who use public or insecure Wi-Fi connections. Consider which devices you plan to take on your trip and what sort of data they contain, and what kind of data, more importantly, they can access.  These days, devices are targets of thieves of all kinds, at all times, including when you are on a holiday.

If you are travelling, consider using a 3G or 4G hotspot instead of hotel internet or free public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you are logging into a work network, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and avoid doing any online banking or shopping.  

It may be cheaper to buy a local SIM card for data, or to share a 3G or 4G data connection from a smart device.  But, if you are travelling where cellphone reception is poor, these steps will help you get online as safely as possible.

Double check the network before you use it

Never assume that a Wi-Fi network is legitimate, or run by an establishment that you are in.  It may be a decoy deployed by a criminal. Rather, confirm the Wi-Fi name with a member of staff.

Limit your online activities

If you do need to check e-mails, rather do so on your PC as you can use the browser’s secure icon to check that you are connected securely (that is, via HTTPs). Smartphones come a poor second to PCs or Macs when it comes to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Hackers who are monitoring network traffic are looking for you to type in passwords.  Rather, limit your activities to anything that does not require a username and log in – although, bear in mind that most apps on your smartphone will automatically log in.

Prepare yourself

If you are going to use a Wi-Fi hotspot then ensure that sharing is switched off to avoid unknowing hackers gaining access to your files, and set all files to ‘secure’ before you log on. Most web services will offer the option to enable HTTPS  - secure browsing  - by default. Activate this on services that you are going to be using frequently.  Many services, such as Google Maps, do this by default, however others may not. Find this service in your account ‘settings’ menu and enable it.

Disconnect when you leave

Shopping centers and big chains can all pose risks – so be careful that you disconnect and avoid having your smart device attempting to connect to the same hotspot later, when you are not looking.

What CAN you do?

Travelers will be on safe ground researching information, or checking news sites, or looking at maps of the local area. However, anything financial, such as booking a hotel, is best done either via your mobile device’s connection, or just over the phone.

You may think that getting away from your office means getting away from people who want to steal your data, but the lurking criminals are quite happy to target travelers as well as company networks.  So be prepared, and protect yourself.

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