- Know your enemy
Gone are the days where you needed to pay extra for wi-fi at a hotel. At the very least even the most budget locations should offer free access in communal areas. But while you’re tucked up in those high thread count sheets or uploading to Insta in the lobby – #nofilter #myofficefortheday #beachlyf – your data is not necessarily protected. We’re talking everything from financial details to your images depending on which fills you with more fear should they be shared. Adrian Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity expert with NordVPN, has seen almost every dodgy cyber deed going and, thankfully, knows how to ensure your holiday is not ruined by hackers.
- Double check that hotel wifi
“Hackers can use a hotel’s wi-fi to steal travellers’ passwords and personal information in two ways,” says Warmenhoven. “One is to connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and install malicious malware. The second is to create a so-called ‘evil twin’ – a fake, unprotected wi-fi hotspot with an unsuspicious name like ‘Guest Wi-Fi’ or ‘Free Hotel Wi-Fi’ – and steal private information this way.” To ensure you don’t get caught out, don’t just assume you’ll be able to tell which is the correct wi-fi when you log on in your room. Instead, confirm details with the hotel staff.
- Use a plug not the USB charger
We’ve all tumbled into a hotel room on the other side of the planet at some ungodly hour only to realise we haven’t brought along the correct plug. It’s at moments like this that a USB charger can seem like a godsend. Not so fast advises Warmenhoven – especially if the USB charger is in a public area. Hackers can modify public places’ charging cables to install malware on phones to perform an attack called juice jacking. This type of attack allows hackers to steal users’ passwords, credit card information and even your address and utility bills. In other words, it might be safer to be without online access for the couple of hours it takes to buy a correct plug.
- Played by a Smart TV
Smart TVs – a modern-day staple in hotel rooms from three stars up – are packed with features that allow you to customise the content they send your way. Like watching your own Netflix shows and so on, but their flexibility has a dark side. According to NordVPN, “a hacked smart TV could be used for a number of cybercrimes: from cyberstalking travellers with built-in microphones or cameras to stealing personal credentials used to log in to apps on smart TV and selling them on the dark web.” It may seem like overkill, but trust us on this one. Keep the smart TV unplugged from power sources when it’s not being used, cover the webcam and avoid logging in with personal credentials.
- Watch those automatic connections
The first thing to do on your phone on holiday is to disable global roaming or you may face the phone bill from hell when you arrive home. But you knew that already. The second is to disable automatic connections. You have no idea what sort of networks your device can be logging into and NordVPN gives one particularly horrific example of a phone left in a hotel room that’s nudged by cleaning staff and can ‘wake up’ only to log onto nearby networks. Even if it was disconnected when you left it.
- Phish off
You’ve heard of Dark Mofo, but you’ve probably not heard of DarkHotel. These dark web hackers attack the wi-fi of upmarket hotels by employing bots, malware and even spear phishing (seemingly legit communications from well known companies) to separate you from your passwords. And then your money.
- Subscribe to a VPN
Think of a VPN as a prophylactic for your online life. It stands for virtual private network and at its most basic protects your cyber identity by hiding your IP address and allowing you to use public wi-fi safety. From just over $3 a month, NordVPN will provide a buffer against malware, block trackers and intrusive ads, provide instant alerts if your accounts have been compromised and generally ensure you come back from your holiday with your data and finances intact. And because it has 5600 servers in 60 countries, there is virtually no lag.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Coverpage’s editorial stance