If there is one thing that cybersecurity experts know, it is that hackers are a serious global security risk. Another thing we all know about and do is travel. Combine hacking, and traveling and the result is cyberattacks. It is well-established that hackers will try to squeeze out every drop out of their hacking opportunities, making them as effortless but as lucrative as possible. Cybercriminals also know that travelers are a vulnerable demographic.
Hackers use public wifi hotspots, which is what most people tend to connect to whilst traveling, while a small portion of the cyber-aware population is now aware that using personal mobile data is better than hopping on unsecured public WiFi networks. Unfortunately, most of us are not cautious enough while traveling as it is easy to get distracted and forget about the importance of cybersecurity.
Of course, the risks of cyberattacks apply to both regular citizens that travel regularly as well as business users who are classified as heavy internet users when traveling. Information security-related, or data-related risks know no bounds or boundaries, nor do they choose their victims. As such, traveling is no different as far as the potential of a hack attack is concerned.
A cyberattack is an unlawful and malicious electronic device breach by a cybercriminal aimed at users and their devices that are online. Cyber attacks can come in many forms and are never good for the victim. Cyberattacks compromise sensitive data, credentials, confidential information and ultimately compromise the security of the devices an internet user uses.
Cyberattacks can also compromise user accounts such as emails, social media, and messaging services potentially causing long-term wide-ranging damage to the victim, even the victims’ friends and family as well as the wider network that becomes vulnerable as a result.
While traveling, a cybercriminal (hacker) can essentially launch any form of attack that he or she could in other scenarios that are not necessarily travel-related. On the other hand, there are preferred techniques that have stood the test of time and have proved beneficial for cybercriminals. This is especially true for unsecured public WiFi hotspots at local or international travel hubs such as airports, train stations, bus stations, restaurants, bars, cafes, and the like. Hotels and other such temporary accommodations also fall into this category. As millions of people are circulating the earth via travel every day, there is ample opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit weary, tired, and especially unaware travelers for their financial or other sensitive information.
Some of these attack techniques are;
Spoofing (fake scam websites), phishing (email scams), spyware and adware (via pop-ups and downloads), as well as keyloggers (that record keyboard keystroke) are all legitimate cybercriminal methods that travelers can be targeted with. Fortunately, most of this can be resolved with a bit of caution and cyber preparedness.
Most public places or hubs that harbor a large number of travelers have weak internet security, including all of the possible places mentioned above. This not only means public WiFi but also compromised hotel computer security, even compromised charging stations. Travelers tend to book hotels, browse their bank accounts or other accounts as well as go online shopping when traveling, and cybercriminals know this.
Adding to that, the risks are not only virtual but in the physical sense as well when it comes to travel. Working on a laptop or smartphone with a clearly visible screen means putting yourself at risk from spying eyes and scam groups. When weak password hygiene and bad internet practice (lack of cybersecurity knowledge) are added to the mix, the consequences can be disastrous for travelers.
In conclusion, it would be advisable to take the following mix of tips into account for a generally much-improved information security stance whilst traveling. Although the list may seem tedious, all of these steps must be implemented for optimal security and peace of mind;
- Opt for mobile data instead of connecting to public WiFi
- Use a privacy-oriented browser that blocks unnecessary tracking and cookies
- Do not access your sensitive accounts while traveling if possible
- Never leave your devices unattended in public areas
- Consider installing a privacy screen on your devices
- Use long, random passwords across your accounts
- Use a premium antimalware program on your devices
- Connect to the internet via a VPN or Virtual Private Network
- Disable the auto-join to WiFI networks function on your devices
- Have a physical backup of your data before you leave for travel
- Confirm that all of your device software is up-to-date
In a time where sophisticated cybercrime is at every corner and does not discriminate who it targets, we must be cyber aware and take back control of our cybersecurity.