Traveling can be stressful, but even more so during the holiday season. AAA projects that the number of year-end holiday travelers in the U.S. will top 100 million for the first time on record. Nearly one in three Americans will travel this holiday season and more than 100.5 million are expected to travel than 50 miles or more from home.
The one thing you really want to make sure you protect while you travel is your smartphone. Not only may you have your boarding pass on your smartphone, but more importantly, the hardware is expensive and it most likely contains a plethora of personal data.
There are two main ways your phone could be compromised while traveling, especially during the holidays: physical device loss and network threats.
Have an anti-theft app installed
Airports and train stations will be bustling with people, you may have to dash to catch a flight or make a pit stop during a long car ride. In all of these situations, your phone is at risk –physical risk. Pickpockets prefer to work in high density areas, and it’s easy to lose things like your phone when you’re in a rush.
Avast SecureMe is the world’s first application that gives iPhone users a tool to protect their devices and personal data when they connect to Wi-Fi networks. The free app scans Wi-Fi networks and tells users which of them are safe. Since many users use Wi-Fi networks without knowing whether or not they are safe, Avast SecureMe will create a secure connection in order to keep them safe.
Avast SecureMe includes a feature called Wi-Fi Security. People who use open Wi-Fi in public areas such as airports, hotels, or cafes will find this helpful. This feature’s job is to scan Wi-Fi connections and notify you if any security issues are found, such as routers with weak passwords, unsecured wireless networks, and routers with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. Users have the option to label Wi-Fi networks that they frequently use as trusted — this way, the app won’t need to check the networks every time.
What’s the risk that my personal data will be stolen?
If you use unsecured Wi-Fi when you log in to a banking site, for example, cybercrooks can capture your login credentials which can lead to identity theft. On unprotected Wi-Fi networks, crooks can also easily view your emails, browsing history, and personal data if you don’t use a secure or encrypted connection like a virtual private network (VPN). For more details on this point, see our recent Wi-Fi hotspot experiment to see how widespread the threat really is.
Avast SecureMe is a simple way to find and choose safe networks.
The Avast SecureMe app includes a VPN to protect your privacy
Avast SecureMe features a VPN to secure your connections while you conduct online tasks that you’d like to remain private. This could include checking emails, doing your online banking, and even visiting your favorite social network sites. Avast SecureMe connects to the secure VPN when it detects that you have connected to a public Wi-Fi network, making all transferred data invisible to prying eyes. For convenience, you can disable the protection for Wi-Fi connections you trust, such as your home network.
Try it for yourself! You can download Avast SecureMe free of charge on iTunes.
Cybersecurity is not limited to your office or home. Nowadays, many of us use the same devices for work and personal business, so when traveling we need to be extra diligent to protect our devices and the data we have on them. If you use common sense and a bit of Avast technology, all your devices – laptops, smartphones, and tablets, can remain secure wherever you are.
Here are a few things you can do before you go and while you’re on-the-road:
1. Install antivirus protection. Your first and best line of defense on your PC or Android device is antivirus protection. Install it and make sure it is up-to-date.
2. Keep your operating system and software up-to-date. Hackers take advantage of software with security holes that have not been plugged, so take time regularly to make sure that your software and apps have patches and updates applied.
3. Lock down your device. Make it a habit to lock your PC and phone with a PIN, password, or even a fingerprint. Avast Mobile Security even allows you to password-protect your apps. Before you travel, make sure your critical apps, like access to your bank, are protected.
We’re happy to announce that Avast SecureLine VPN will now be preloaded onto ASUS notebooks. Avast SecureLine VPN is now being made available on the company’s popular notebooks worldwide (with the exception of China), making it possible to provide users across the globe with a secure online experience by protecting them from hackers and other vulnerabilities.
Relying on your hotel to protect you when using their free guest Wi-Fi is not a good idea.
Even the best hotel chains are vulnerable to hackers, so having a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is vital for your protection. I will tell you how easy it is to use below. But first, here’s how cybercrooks can get their victims:
One way is through buggy equipment such as the critical vulnerability discovered last March in ANTlabs’s InnGate product used by 277 hotels, convention centers, and data centers in 29 countries. The InnGate provides temporary guest access to a Wi-Fi connection. By breaking into this piece of equipment, an attacker gets full read and write access to a Linux file system and from there can launch attacks against guests on the affected hotel’s Wi-Fi.
Another tactic hackers take is to create a fake Wi-Fi network, call it something innocuous like “Hotel Guest Wi-Fi”, and lure unsuspecting victims to their rogue connection. What the hackers do is set up their own access point and hope you’ll connect to theirs instead of the public Wi-Fi network.
What do hackers want?
It depends on who you are and what information you have on your devices. For normal people with normal jobs, typically, the hacker can watch your online activity, read your email, steal your account passwords and if they go deeply enough, potentially steal your credit card information, which is the precursor to identity theft. “There is seemingly no limit to what they could do,” say the researchers who discovered the InnGate vulnerability.
Victims’ laptops or mobile devices can be also be infected with malware. Last year, the DarkHotel cyberspies gained access to the computers of high-level executives, government agencies and NGOs, and U.S. executives traveling in Asia, probably to steal nuclear secrets.
How do you protect yourself on free Wi-Fi?
Here’s your wrap up of security and privacy related news from the June 17 – 27 posts on the Avast blog:
It’s summertime in the Northern Hemisphere and many people are going on or planning their vacation. Beware of fake vacation packages and beautiful rental properties that are not as they seem. These Vacation scams can ruin your holiday, so read up before you become a victim.
More than 600 million Samsung phones were reported to be at risk because of a vulnerability found in the keyboard app SwiftKey. The best way to protect yourself is to use a virtual private network (VPN) when using an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot. If you have a Samsung S6, S5, or S4, you need to read Samsung phones vulnerable to hacker attack via keyboard update.
Last night the pilot episode of MR. ROBOT, a new thriller-drama series aired on USA Network.
The show revolves around Elliot who works as a cyber security engineer by day and is a vigilante hacker by night.
I watched the episode and then sat down with Avast security expert Pedram Amini, host of Avast’s new video podcast debuting next week, to find out if someone like you or me could be affected by the hacks that happened in the show.
In the second minute of the episode we see Elliot explaining to Rajid, owner of Ron’s Coffee, that he intercepted the café’s Wi-Fi network, which lead him to discover that Rajid ran a child pornography website.
Stefanie: How likely is it that someone can hack you while you’re using an open Wi-Fi hotspot?
Pedram: Anyone with a just a little technical knowledge can download free software online and observe people’s activities on open Wi-Fi. We went to San Francisco, New York, and Chicago for a Wi-Fi monitoring experiment and found that one-third of Wi-Fi networks are open, without password-protection. If you surf sites that are unprotected, meaning they use the HTTP protocol, while on open Wi-Fi, then anyone can see, for example, which Wikipedia articles you are reading, what you’re searching for on Bing, and even see what products you are browsing for on Amazon and eBay, if you do not log in to the site.
Stefanie: Wow! That’s a bit frightening… How can I protect myself then?
VPN service Hola, which has millions of users, recently came under fire for not being as up front with their users as they should have been. In the past weeks it has been revealed that Hola does the following:
- allows Hola users to use each others’ bandwidth
- sells their users’ bandwidth to their sister company Luminati (which recently helped facilitate a botnet attack)
- and, according to Vectra research, Hola can install and run code and additional software on their users’ devices without their users’ knowledge.
If you are an Hola user or if you know someone who uses Hola, please make sure you/they are aware of this.
We rely on our apps. Everyday we use our favorite ones to check news, the weather for our next trip, and communicate with our loved ones. Some apps, especially the system ones, are continuously in use, even if they are not the foremost app on your screen. The keyboard is one of them.
Recently, a dangerous vulnerability was discovered in the most popular keyboard, SwiftKey. If you have a Samsung S6, S5, and even a S4 running the stock operating system, you’re at risk. The app always checks for language updates, but this process is not performed in a secure way. If you’re connected with an open or public Wi-Fi, your phone is at risk of a very common and dangerous Man-in-the-middle attack. Your connection will be compromised and all the Internet traffic could be eavesdropped upon. That includes the passwords you’re typing in the very same keyboard, your financial information, everything.
To insure your security, you need to use a VPN when on Wi-Fi, since that’s when most updates are scheduled to occur. You probably already know what a VPN is and how it works. If not, you can find a lot of information in our blog. Our product, Avast SecureLine VPN, creates an encrypted tunnel for the inbound and outbound data of your Internet connection, blocking any possibility of a Man-in-the-middle attack.
But the story does not end here. If you use SwiftKey on an unsecured Wi-Fi, the attacker could also download malware into your phone or tablet. That’s a job for Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus (AMS). Some users think that we don’t need a security product for our phones. They also think that security companies exaggerate the need for a security app just to sell their products. AMS not only scans the installation process of apps but also checks the Internet sites you’re visiting and malicious behavior of any file in your device. You can install Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus on your Android device for free from the Google Play store.
NOTE: At the writing of this post, a patch for the vulnerability was provided to mobile network operators by Samsung. SwiftKey wrote on their blog, “This vulnerability is unrelated to and does not affect our SwiftKey consumer apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store.”
By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected.
–Eric Schmidt, Google chairman
As a rule of thumb, it’s good to keep in mind that anything and everything that can be connected to the Internet can be hacked. Poorly designed or implemented systems could expose serious vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. Now, most of us are fairly familiar with certain gadgets that can be connected to the Internet, such as mobiles devices and/or laptops, smart watches, and cars, but what about the things that are still emerging within the Internet-connected world? Some of these new items include routers, sensors, and everyday gadgets such as alarm clocks, wearables, microwaves, and grills.