With summer officially upon us, it’s safe to assume that more than a few Canadians will be making a list of potential vacation destinations and checking travel websites for deals, if they haven’t already – but as a new study by Intel Security warns, the favourite season of travellers is the favourite season of cybercriminals too.
“People are often quick to use devices on vacation to access sensitive information without considering the potential risk,” Gary Davis, Intel Security’s chief consumer security evangelist, said in a statement regarding the company’s “Digital Detox: Unplugging on Summer Vacation” study. “As a result, it’s crucial to impart safe digital habits to help consumers stay more secure when travelling.”
Like children, cybercriminals are innately aware of how easily distracted adults can be during a vacation, though unlike children they’ll take advantage of frazzled travellers by accessing sensitive information through unsecured smartphones, laptops, social channels, and even wearables.
Anyone who uses an unfamiliar wireless connection to log into social media or check their email should know they’re an appealing target for criminals and plan accordingly, either by limiting their activity or disconnecting from the Internet altogether, Intel said.
To gauge public awareness of the cybersecurity risks that come with travelling, the company commissioned its online study in March, polling nearly 14,000 consumers, including around 800 Canadians, to find out how they defined unplugging from the Internet; how many planned to unplug during their vacation; and how many actually did.
Roughly 64 per cent of Canadian respondents defined being unplugged as having no internet usage at all, while half said being unplugged simply meant not making any phone calls.
As for those who disconnected, the numbers were unsurprisingly low: 54 per cent of respondents who intended to unplug were unable to do so, though 71 per cent said their vacation was more enjoyable if they did.
Meanwhile, 79 per cent of respondents fully admitted to connecting to the Internet while on vacation, with 58 per cent checking their personal and work email at least once a day – which, Intel warned, was putting sensitive company information at jeopardy.
However, Canadian vacationers did prove to the most successful among the nine countries polled at abstaining from social media, though they were only the second-most successful at abstaining from work emails, which 60 per cent managed to do.
For those seeking to protect their information – or themselves – next time they leave home, Intel offered the following tips:
- Watch when you share: We all love sharing our travels with family and friends on social media, but it’s important to not indicate publicly where or when you’ll be going, Intel warns. Wait until you’re home to post about it, otherwise you risk thieves breaking and entering when they know your home will be vacant. Geo-tagging, if normally enabled, should be turned off too.
- Limit wi-fi and bluetooth use: Data can be expensive, but logging into wi-fi – especially public wi-fi – abroad can be a recipe for disaster, Intel says, potentially exposing your personal information to cybercriminals. Exchanging payment information can be especially risky.
- Monitor your accounts: Keep an eye out for suspicious social media messages, emails, or online banking activity.
- Erase your login history: Update your passwords, make sure your mobile browsers can’t remember them, and remove networks from your bluetooth and wi-fi history. If you aren’t meticulous about monitoring your activity, Intel says, a criminal could have access to your accounts for quite some time before you notice.
- Be mindful of your surroundings: Too often travellers make themselves easy to spot, whether it’s by studying their phone for directions or taking a selfie in front of a local landmark – and it’s when they’re at their most distracted that criminals are happiest to take advantage, Intel says, making it important to blend in whenever possible.
Finally, for those curious to know who is better at unplugging themselves from the Internet – men or women? Gen X-ers or Millennials? – Intel released the following infographic (click on the image for a larger version).