It may be vacation season, but crime never takes a holiday

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Last year at this time, people were pandemic-cautious, gingerly stepping out only when necessary.

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Today – it’s like Niagara Falls all over, with people scrambling to get the heck out of Dodge to enjoy everything from meeting friends for coffee to joining the hysterical airport throngs, waiting for flights to take them far away.

And, if there’s not enough to worry about – cyber criminals are everywhere, taking advantage of everyone from friends innocently enjoying time at a local patio to those hanging out at airports for hours, if not days on end.

You cannot let your guard down for one minute, warn the experts in cyber security, especially given the recent news that cyber crime is on the increase in Canada, both from a business and an individual perspective.

According to the Swiss-based MQ Managementund Qualität trade magazine for integrated management systems, summer is feast season for unscrupulous criminals out to join unsuspecting vacationers on holidays. The urgency cannot be underestimated as crime never takes a holiday.

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“Tourists are extremely wary of pickpockets on vacation. But when it comes to their digital security, they are less careful. Yet credit card fraud, data theft and identity theft lurk around every corner,” notes the website. “Whether at the airport, hotel, campsite or Internet cafe – cyber criminals use every opportunity to scam sensitive information from travellers.”

The recent debacles taking place at airports around the world is the perfect example of what a feast day at a free buffet it is for cyber criminals, and should serve as a warning for people to really be diligent on their smartphones, laptops and tablets.

“For many of us, this may be the first time we’ve travelled abroad since the pandemic and as such there may be certain elements of our travel routines that we may have forgotten about, including our cyber security hygiene habits,” said Robert Falzon, head of engineering for Check Point Canada whose company, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., is a leading provider of cyber security solutions to global governments and corporations. “This is music to the ears of opportunistic hackers looking to take advantage of laid-back attitudes and unprotected devices. This presents a risk to the individual and, in our hyper-connected world, to any organization they communicate with – including their employer.”

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With more and more people connecting to public Wi-Fi and receiving emails and texts that might be phishing scams related to everything from summer travel to stopping to have a drink with friends, consumers need to know what to look out for. Here are some tips courtesy of Falzon:

Top Tips to Keep Your Devices Secure

Treat public Wi-Fi spots with caution. Free Wi-Fi access is appealing, but it can also pose some serious security threats. It’s not uncommon for hackers to sit at airports, waiting for travellers to go onto public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks completely if possible but if you must use them, avoid accessing personal accounts or sensitive data while connected to those networks.

Beware of “shoulder” surfers. The person sitting next to you on your plane or while you’re waiting for your plane to board could have malicious intent. Someone can be looking over your shoulder while you enter in credit card details or while you’re logging into social media. It’s smart to get a screen privacy protector, which can help hide your information from prying eyes.

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Double-check the websites you book travel on. Travel-related cyber attacks can occur even before the trip begins, so it’s crucial that you verify the travel website you use. Scammers like to imitate authentic sites, and pretend to offer luxury vacations or discounted trips, to steal your personal information. If a deal looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Beware of language problems. In this instance, we’re not talking about mastering the local dialect, but instead keeping an eye out for any misspellings or grammatical errors as well as authoritative phrases that are pushing you to make snap decisions, as this could indicate that something isn’t quite right. This is because cyber criminals rely on people not taking the time to look at the small details that can signal an email or message isn’t legitimate.

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Never share your credentials. Most people reuse the same usernames and passwords across multiple online accounts which is why credentials theft is a common goal of phishing scams. Phishing emails/messages commonly will duplicate well-known brands, impersonate customer support  specialists, or even impersonate your employer.

Turn off automatic Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connections. It may be a default setting on your smartphone to automatically connect to an available Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network, which may allow threat actors to gain access to your device.

Download the latest security patches. Before getting ready to leave for your trip, make sure that all of your devices have been updated with the latest security updates.

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Keep up to date with the latest scams. It is good practice to do some research on the latest scams that are circulating to keep you from falling for any tricks that threat actors may use to spread ransomware. Remember that not all scams are based on email phishing and you could still be compromised into giving away your credentials over the phone or by SMS.

Be suspicious of cash machines. Avoid withdrawing money from cash machines as hackers, especially in tourist areas, are known to plug in credit card credential stealers on standalone ATM machines. If it is necessary to use one, find an official bank machine.

– www.checkpoint.com.

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