Going on tour: Digital Security risks and Wi-Fi

The tour industry is reviving after the pandemic.

The travelers are mastering tour destinations, and foreign ones are gradually opening up: Turkey, Great Britain, Switzerland, Montenegro, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the countries of East Africa. We have become more attentive in matters of health protection, and we are especially careful about personal hygiene when traveling. What about digital hygine?. Digital Security experts have compiled the top possible threats that I would like to warn travelers against.

Are you definitely a tour operator?

We advise you to start with this question if you book something on new, unknown resources. Read the reviews and (if you’ve already decided) make sure that you are making a payment on a secure page. The address should start with “https: //”, not “http: //”. The https protocol does not provide a 100% guarantee that a site is not fraudulent, but it does mitigate this risk.

Proven skyscanner bookings also pose an indirect threat. Fraudsters often fake popular sites, creating phishing clones of them. A link to a phishing site or a promotion page can come in an email newsletter, or you can go to it from an advertising banner. So don’t be lazy to look into the address bar and check: https://www.booking.com/ is not the same as https://www.booklng.com/.

Where they don’t pay for hours

Going to a new location, you should learn about the peculiarities of making payments. Contactless payment terminals are not widespread everywhere. For example, in the countries of Africa, South America (except for Brazil) and Western Asia (except for Saudi Arabia), the mobile payment system (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.) does not work. In the US, in comparison with Russia, PayPass is much less common.

In Japan and China, their own payment systems, JCB and We Chat Pay, are more popular than Visa and Mastercard, which are familiar to foreigners. And the MIR card, contrary to its name, is accepted only in the EAEU countries (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) and Turkey.

Taking into account possible difficulties with cards, tourists try to have cash with them. And this is where the threat lies. We recommend using ATM machines inside bank offices. Withdrawing money in too crowded places (metro, underground passage) or vice versa in lonely street ATMs, you risk becoming a victim of skimming.

Fraudsters modify the ATM interface using special equipment (skimmers) to copy your card details and then make a duplicate. Skimmers are becoming more invisible and can be installed inside the card slot. Once launched, the skimmer pumps your card data, sometimes even directly to the criminal’s cell phone via Bluetooth.

The nets are set
Most public places – from airports to cafes and shopping centers – offer free Wi-Fi. It is convenient for tourists: they can orient themselves in unfamiliar areas, find the necessary information, call a taxi.

Unfortunately, free doesn’t mean secure. Under “Free_WiFi” a malicious network can be hidden, when connected to which all your traffic – logins, passwords and other data – will fall into the hands of intruders. In addition, a large congestion of unprotected users connected to the same network makes it fairly easy to distribute malware, such as ransomware.

If the device warns you about connecting to an unsecured network, it means that the network is not protected by a password and encryption. With passwords, we think everything is clear. Encryption means that the information that is transmitted between your device and the router is in the form of a “secret code”, so it cannot be read without a key to decrypt this code. When you connect to a network that is not protected by encryption, an attacker can break into the session and intercept the data.

Note that even if a password is set for the network and the connection is listed as secure, a fraudster can try to obtain a password in the same way as other users, and bypassing encryption mechanisms is a matter of his qualifications. However, it is much easier to become a victim by connecting to an unsecured network. Don’t make life easy for scammers.

Let’s be realistic: you are not likely to be scared enough to never connect to public Wi-Fi again, but exercise due caution.

Disable automatic connection to Wi-Fi networks on your device. And we advise you to do this not only for travelers, but for all users in general. If this option is activated, your mobile device periodically polls its surroundings in search of a familiar network. Attackers can pretend to be such a network and connect a mobile device to their network without your knowledge.

Only use public Wi-Fi if you really need to. And having connected …

  • Open browser tabs in incognito mode
  • Try not to enter usernames, passwords, bank card details and other critical information, better spend your mobile traffic on it
  • Do not download or update anything
  • Juice Jacking, or how to drain personal data through charging
  • In addition to public Wi-Fi, charging stations located at airports are also dangerous.

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