Summer time is holiday time, allowing us to travel around and relax. However, data protection analysts say that you shouldn’t be too relaxed, as hackers and thieves are always on the prowl. Cyber crime doesn’t take holidays, so it’s possible to lose both your money and your physical property while you’re out on a vacation. “The thieves are always ready to rob us if we give them the slightest opening: when you connect to Wi-Fi abroad, upload your holiday photos to social media, or even when you charge your smartphone at a public station at an airport,” Jevgenic Tichonov, an IT engineering PhD and the lead of the IT department at the State Data Protection Inspectorate, told Skycop.
When a hundred Facebook likes lead to zero funds at the bank
These days, our trips are as virtual as they are physical. Our money, our tickets, hotel reservations and even our mood – dependent on the reaction our holiday selfies elicit online – are all digital. But the money we have stored in our bank accounts can become as fleeting as recognition on the internet. Our expert told us how you can lose your valuables even while traveling.
“People like taking pictures of their boarding passes and uploading them online. You shouldn’t do the former and definitely not the latter. This only allows hackers access to all sorts of personal information, from your name and surname to your bank account data. My advice would be to only share your holiday pictures and experiences after you come home,” advised Mr. Tichonov. “Your social media network is large, and the one of your friends is even larger. This allows the burglars to case your place and know when you’re out traveling, making it easy for them to rob you. However, I do realize that you may want to share your experiences on the spot – in that case, at least make a review of your social media security settings.”
You should also be mindful of security when charging your phone and laptops at a public location. Public charging stations at an airport or a bus or a train terminal can become the spot where your personal data was stolen.
“This kind of cybernetic attack is called ‘juice hacking’ and it happens when your personal data is just sucked up. When you connect to a public USB port to charge a device, the criminals can copy your data – messages, photos, contacts, financial information. They can even instal malware or turn your appliance into a tool for their crimes,” the security expert told Skycop.“I would recommend you only ever use personal chargers. And if you connect your phone to your computer via USB, at least set it to flight mode. That way, you’ll turn off the network functionality and lessen the risk of getting hacked.”
Hotel Wi-Fi: not as safe as you’d think
According to the expert, the biggest dangers come from either having your devices stolen, or via using wireless networks or contactless payments. “Personally, I wouldn’t even allow the hotel to make a copy of my passport or driver’s licence. They already have your bank card information if you used it for payment,” said Mr. Tichonov. “For example, Lithuanian law allows hotels to record certain personal data, but forbids them from making copies of personal documents. I advise you to ask why they need your documents and data.”
Mr. Tichonov notes that it’s especially easy to become a victim of theft if you connect to public Wi-Fi. The expert advises you to not use Wi-Fi at all, and if you need to do it, to check if the name of the network isn’t a duplicate of another and that it’s actually the secure network provided by, say, the hotel. However, it’s important to be cautious even then.
“I’d advise you to turn off Bluetooth on all mobile devices and to provide internet connectivity for your laptop by turning your smartphone into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. Use your 3G or 4G to surf the net, and never enter your personal data or connect to bank and other sensitive accounts when using Wi-Fi,” said Mr. Tichonov. “Criminals love using the ‘man in the middle’ method, where a hacker with a computer and the right software pretends to be a Wi-Fi network. When you connect to it, your data goes through his network. Now, he can do with it what he wants. Be careful: don’t go to or enter personal data on websites that don’t have data encryption – you will know them by the ‘https’ at the beginning of the web address.”
Take precautions before and after the trip
You can avoid being robbed, you just need to keep your head and come prepared. The security expert ensures us that you can protect both your data and money if you take precautions.
“I would advise keeping your devices locked with passwords and PIN codes. Follow the advice for coming up with a good password. If you can, enable biometric identification, such as fingerprint locks. Limit the amount of contactless payments. Make sure that your device’s operating system is updated to the most current version. Disable functions that allow you detect nearby devices and any file sharing apps. I would recommend doing a factory reset after a trips – it takes time, but it’s worth it,” said the expert.
Mr. Tichonov added that there are myriad ways to swindle people and that new ones are invented every day. That’s why it’s necessary to always be vigilant. And if you do become a victim of a crime, notify the police or the representative of your country. If you have suspicions that your personal data was compromised, ask institutions that work with personal data protection for help.
Skycop advice: if you managed to avoid the crooks on your trip, but your flight was delayed, cancelled or overbooked, fill out a claim and get up €600 in compensation. Skycop will make sure that your inconveniences pay off.