Hotels, Laptops and Identity Theft!
September 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
When people travel, it is not uncommon for them to take their laptops or other wireless devices with them. Whether they may be travelling for business purposes or for a family vacation, they may want to receive email, stream media, or work on presentations. Most of these activities require some sort of connection to the Internet. For those with smartphones, the connection is already in place. But for many others, a laptop or iPad is really the preferred tool, and connecting to the hotel’s free wireless Internet connection is their best option, as to not use up precious data minutes through their wireless provider.Whenever a computer or other wireless device connects to the Internet, many of the software applications installed on the device search their “homebase” for updates. In fact, most applications are programmed to do so. When an application finds an available update, it prompts the user to install the update. In general, software updates are desirable. Updates provide critical patches for security vulnerabilities and bug fixes for other glitches, all in an effort to provide the user with a safer, more secure, and better user experience.Recently, some hotel guests are finding that simple updates via hotel wireless networks are leading to big headaches, and that is because the updates are not from the software provider; they are from criminals!How an Attack Works:While staying at a hotel, a user connects to the hotel wireless Internet and soon gets a popup for a popularly installed application claiming it is out of date and that there is an update available. The user decides to go ahead and install the update, but instead, what they are really installing is malicious software that criminals use to steal their personally identifiable information and commit fraud.Cyber criminals have cleverly infiltrated the hotel’s wireless Internet connection and routinely scan for newly connected devices. Once they find one, they will display a popup window for a piece of software commonly found on all computers or devices in hopes to entrap the user. If the user proceeds with the update, the malicious software now places them at risk for identity theft.How to Defend Yourself:Whether you find yourself travelling a great deal or only occasionally, you can defend yourself against this type of attack. When you receive a popup prompting you to update software, check the certificate to see if it is registered to the actual software vendor. If it is not, do not install the update. You can also visit the software vendor’s website to see what the latest software version is. Does it match what the popup claims? If not, don’t trust it.If at all possible, you should always wait until you return home or to work where you will have a trusted and safe Internet connection by which you can download and install the update.One way to protect yourself while traveling from unsecured hotel networks is to use a personal network of your own called a virtual private network, or VPN. A virtual private network is a dedicated connection between networks. A VPN creates a secure tunnel and encrypts your data through the dangerous cloud of the Internet. A VPN changes your virtual location by assigning you a different IP address. A VPN controls the traffic to and from your computer, keeping your online information activity secure, private and anonymous. VPNs also provide Antivirus, Malware and Trojan infiltration protection as well as encrypting your data. A VPN is much more secure than a typical public network because fewer people are using your specific VPN, and even if someone does get unauthorized entry, the attacker will not be able to read the data because it is encrypted at such a high encryption rate.If you are interested in setting up a VPN simply do a web search for “VPN” and the most popular VPNs will pull up in your browser. VPNs are easy to use and are available for computers, smartphones and tablets.In addition, if your home’s wireless network is not secure, you should make every effort to secure it before you proceed any further. By not having a safe and secure network you open yourself up to these types of attacks.Another way to protect yourself is to update your system before you travel on vacation. This will allow you to know that your system is already up-to-date and that the popup you see is probably bogus.Whichever route you take, be sure to stay alert. It is rather easy to fall victim to this type attack, especially if you like to keep your system or devices up-to-date. When in doubt, ask yourself if you could survive without the update until you return home. Chances are you probably can.