Hackers trying to steal holidays

Hackers are taking advantage of your holiday spirit, taking your personal data, financial information and stealing your frequent flyer points.

According to Money Talks, they may already have them and you may be none the wiser.

“Travellers are often in a hurry, distracted or on autopilot while traversing public places,” said chief information security officer for Entrust Datacard Mark Ruchie. “They don’t notice when unusual activity occurs on their accounts – making them easy targets for hackers.”

It’s easier than ever for hackers to access your information. The tools and technology that was previously only available to government agencies are now accessible to hackers who know where to look.

And, again, selling information or loyalty points is easy too, for those in the know. The theft and sale of frequent flyer points are done with such stealth that those affected may not even register the loss of points for months.

“The black market for frequent-flyer accounts is consistently growing,” says Justin Lavelle, a director for online background check platform BeenVerified.

Experts warn travellers to change their loyalty program passwords more often, to prevent hackers stealing your hard-earned points.

Hackers also try to steal your identity when you log on to public wifi at an airport or hotel.

“Cybercriminals can create a rough copy of your online presence to open up accounts in your name, pretend to be you in online transactions or even masquerade as you on social media to your friends, family and colleagues,” said head of Chubb Cyber North America Mike Tanenbaum.

To prevent the loss of your personal data or worse, money, Mr Tanenbaum recommends using a virtual private network (VPN) for any online transactions while travelling.

“Avoid conducting banking transactions or accessing your personal financial accounts while travelling and wait until you get home to complete these types of activities,” he said.

Hackers come in all shapes and guises, too. Be on the lookout for wait staff or assistants who tell you your credit card has been declined and then suggest using your debit card with PIN. It’s not necessarily the wait staff who are dodgy, but it’s another way for your details to be stolen, especially if the restaurant or store does not have the security to protect their point-of-sale systems.

Only use ATMs inside bank branches or inside airports. ATMs on the street have a better chance of being surveyed by hackers or have skimmers installed. Stick to safe wifi and steer clear of public computers. Take care when downloading random apps, such as museum guides, language translation tools and local news apps – they could be infected with malware. And, finally, take any devices with you when you leave your hotel room, or at least lock them up in the room safe or leave them with the front desk in their safe. It’s not guaranteed protection from hackers, but it’s better than leaving it out for the so-called ‘evil maid’.

And check your frequent flyer accounts frequently, watch your debit card usage, and you’ll have a good chance of being safe from hackers.

Also, before you leave, make sure you have backups of your phone, computer (if you take it with you) and any other digital devices that contain your personal and financial information, photos, and other important data. At the very least, you’ll have a copy of everything should things go awry while you’re away.

Have you ever been hacked on holiday?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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