The complete guide to internet security abroad – words Alexa Wang
While you might not be checking your work email while you unwind on the beach, you cannot relax your data security while you are on holiday.
From avoiding free Wi-Fi to using a VPN, this article looks at some of the biggest threats to cyber security on mobile devices, and what you can do to protect yourself and your family while you are away.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi
While it can be very tempting to just connect to the nearest public Wi-Fi as and when you need to get online, it does come with its dangers. Connecting to public networks can make you vulnerable to data thieves and hackers, who are able to access and steal your data by connecting to the same public Wi-Fi as you.
Public networks are insecure due to the lack of encryption, so when you’re sending and receiving information when connected to public Wi-Fi, this can be easily accessed. Important pieces of information like bank details and passwords can be at risk, which is why it’s important to put simple measures in place to prevent any of your vital information from being stolen.
One way to ensure you create a secure connection is by using a VPN. Also known as Virtual Private Network, a VPN turns any unsecure connection into a secure one by adding layers of encrypted data, making it difficult, if not impossible for data thieves to steal your information. Ultimately, VPNs encrypt your connection in such a way that the data can’t be read or monitored by anyone – a safe and practical way to connect to public Wi-Fi in a secure and safe manner.
Be aware of ‘network spoofing’
If you’ve ever connected or tried connecting to some form of public Wi-Fi, you’re probably used to seeing connections labelled as “free café Wi-Fi” or “free airport Wi-Fi” or something of the sort. Some of these, however, may not be what they seem. Network spoofing is a hacking method wherein the data thief creates fake access points to look like legitimate public Wi-Fi connections. Once connected to this fake network, this connection allows the hacker to easily monitor and steal your information.
Sometimes, the fake network will even ask you to ‘login’ before you can access the ‘free Wi-Fi’. Unfortunately, many people will use the same email address and password which they use for multiple services – because, hey, it’s easy to remember. This gives data thieves instantaneous access to your email address and password, which in turn, allows them to access other personal information. If you really do need to connect to a public network, always use a VPN, and even then, you should create a unique password, when asked to log in – for added protection.
Something phishy’s going on…
We’ve all received spammy emails from someone claiming to be a ‘Nigerian Prince’ from time to time, but the ones to really look out for are the sophisticated phishing emails. While you should be soaking up the glorious sun and relishing cocktails rather than checking your work emails while you’re on holiday, sometimes it’s a necessity.
It’s easy enough to just grab your phone, login to your email account and flick through emails – but it’s exactly this ease that makes phishing attacks so much more successful when using a mobile device. In fact, mobile users are three times more likely to fall prey to a phishing scam on their mobile than they are on desktops. This is mostly due to the way we use mobile devices and the kinds of communications we send and receive, making it easier for attackers to trick people into clicking or tapping on links that they shouldn’t. On smaller screens, dealing with your emails is more difficult. It can be easy to accidentally click on an unfamiliar link, and hard to verify whether a company is legitimate or not. This is where an antivirus app can come in handy.
Before you jet off on your holiday, take the time to download a secure antivirus app which can flag suspicious emails and links to give your device an added layer of protection. There’s always the risk that you’ll receive a phishing email, and even if you’re not actively planning on checking your emails you could end up accidentally tapping a suspicious link via a pop up or something similar. Doing something as simple and easy as installing an antivirus app can really help prevent these kinds of cyber-attacks.
Location, location, location
Knowing how ‘risky’ a country is in terms of cyber-security can also be useful when you’re going on holiday. In a recent list of the top 10 worst holiday destinations for cyber-security, compiled by looking at the number of ‘mobile threats’ a country has had, research found that the US is the worst destination, quickly followed by the UK. Here’s the complete list of the top 10 worst places in the world for cyber-security:
- The US – 5 million mobile threats
- The UK – 2 million mobile threats
- Spain – 1.7 million mobile threats
- France 700,000 mobile threats
- Poland – 475,000 mobile threats
- Canada – 400,000 mobile threats
- Italy – 400,000 mobile threats
- Portugal – 375,000 mobile threats
- The Netherlands – 320,000 mobile threats
- Greece – 75,000 mobile threats
Even if the country you’re going to isn’t included on the list, it’s always important to be as prepared and protected as possible when it comes to cyber-security abroad.
Implementing simple security measures like a VPN or anti-virus app will give you the peace of mind that if there were potential threats, your information and data would be protected – leaving you to enjoy your time away rather than worrying about potential data thieves.