G Data Travel Warning: Online criminals don’t take any holidays
G Data offers tips on how to keep your mobile devices safe during your holiday
As more and more Brits are fleeing the country, in order to escape what has already been dubbed ‘monsoon June’, academic research shows this has virtually no consequences for our presence on the www. If anything, the Summer seems to be a good time to spend time online. Booking holidays online is more popular than ever. And during our holiday, we aren’t putting down our laptops, tablets or smartphones either (Source: Annals of Tourism Research, through http://www.bitsofscience.org/always-online-break-vacation-6099/). We like the possibility of checking if the weather conditions are going to be perfect for going to the beach tomorrow, planning a nice roundtrip to visit some old mountain villages near the hotel the day after, and keeping up to date with e-mails and news at all times. Having an internet connection virtually everywhere seems like a great luxury, but it comes at a risk: how can you be sure your data aren’t being ‘sniffed’ or stolen? And how can you avoid malware infections under insanitary internet conditions? Because online criminals don’t take holidays the way we do. Security specialist G Data gives tips.
Problem area: Internet cafes and Wi-Fi networks
Many owners of Internet cafes and suppliers of Wi-Fi networks have no incentive to install a comprehensive security solutions on their systems. The computers at internet cafes are often highly infected with spyware. Wi-Fi networks can be insufficiently encrypted, even though a password might be needed to get access to the network. This means all traffic in the network can be spied on. This can happen completely unbeknown to the user and sensitive data (like credit card information or login information for online banking) can be stolen easily. It is also no problem to record the entire traffic.
How can you protect yourself?
- Avoid using public computers in internet cafes for online banking and or online shopping.
- Delete temporary files, browser history and cookies after the use of public computers.
- Don’t forget to log off when logged on a website as a registered user. Otherwise the next user could have access to your account.
- To send holiday greetings, you should set up a special email account before traveling, for instance at yahoo.com, gmail.com or hotmail.com. This way your entire e-correspondence is not up for grabs when the account is broken into.
- When using Wi-Fi hotspots and hotel networks with your own laptop, the use of a internet security suite with anti-virus protection and a firewall is extremely recommendable.
- Alternative to wireless networks: the use of a UMTS card. Especially when using online banking or online shopping, this is a wiser option. It is not free, but it is much safer.
- Encrypt all important data on the hard disk prior to your departure and perform a backup, just in case your device is stolen or lost in transit.
Smartphone and tablet PC owners risk losing their device
Loss and theft are the biggest risks for smartphones and tablets. In the UK over 10,000 phones are reported stolen every month, according to the metropolitan police. At one of the largest airports of Europe, Frankfurt Airport 1,500 mobile devices were found in 2011 (Source: Fraport). The loss of a smartphone or tablet PCs is not only annoying, but it can also be dangerous. These devices generally have a lot of personal data stored on them. If one falls into the wrong hands, these data, such as photos, text messages or all contact details in the address book can be accessed. In addition to that, the ‘finder’ of the device can start shopping online and downloading apps at the expense of the rightful owner.
What can users of smartphones and tablet PCs do?
- Check the security settings in your mobile device and change them if necessary. Look for the activation of the password prompt function. A key lock can then be lifted only by entering the correct PIN number. Also, replace default passwords by individual passwords.
- Keep your operating system and all programs and applications up-to-date with updates and security patches that patch security holes that hackers could otherwise exploit to attack or hack the device.
- Only download apps from trusted sources, such as from the Google Android Market (Google Play) for Android devices and from trusted manufacturer websites. In addition, you should check to see what permissions apps ask you for. Be wary of applications, for example, that ask permission to initiate calls or send text messages.
- Generally you should only install apps that you really need. Install an effective security solution to protect the smartphone or tablet PC against viruses and other malicious code. Only enable features such as Bluetooth when you need to use them. When using a wireless network, make sure the connection is securely encrypted, at least according to WPA standards.
- Sensitive data should be encrypted, so criminals are not able to simply read them in the case of theft or loss of the device.
- The encryption should be secured with a strong password, consisting of at least eight characters in uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Make regular backups of data on your smartphone or tablet PC. Do not leave your device unattended. If you want to sell your smartphone, you should make sure all data are deleted completely and the device is reset to the original settings.
- Always check your phone bill. If international text messages are being billed, even though you did not send any text messages abroad, you might have fallen the victim to a scam.