McAfee Advisory: Travel Safely This Summer with Digital Devices

Summer is fast approaching and many of us are planning vacations. Of course, digital devices get packed with the other essentials. There are, after all, many free Wi-Fi hotspots along the way that allow us to check email and even conduct business (on the sly).

However, according to McAfee Labs, millions of new malware samples get created every year, and the majority target those very same free Wi-Fi networks you are planning to access. Here are some facts about the new dangers you may face with your digital devices on the road and tips about what you can do to reduce the likelihood of falling into one of the traps.

“In the first quarter of 2012, we have already detected eight million new malware samples, showing that malware authors are continuing their unrelenting development of new malware,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs. “The same skills and techniques that were sharpened on the PC platform are increasingly being extended to other platforms, such as mobile and Mac; and as more homes and businesses use these platforms, the attacks will spread, which is why all users, no matter their platforms, should take security and online safety precautions.”

Summer and family vacations are great opportunities for cybercriminals to attack. For example, they often use free Wi-Fi networks to lure unsuspecting users so they can intercept their data. Security software installed on all internet-enabled devices will protect confidential information and valuable digital assets.

“Allowing applications to access your Facebook information potentially turn you into a spammer. These apps have a mind of their own and bombard your friends with myriad status updates and surveys to try to collect their personal data.” – Brenda Moretto, Canadian Consumer Manager at McAfee.

Effective protection will detect and block viruses, stop Web and email threats, safeguard personal data, warn users of dangerous websites, filter content, and monitor activity for risky signs. It will also provide a two-way firewall for extra security against hackers and offer remote lock and wipe features to prevent misuse of phone and personal data if the device is lost or stolen.

According to a recent McAfee-commissioned survey, only 9.8 per cent of Canadians believe they are protected from threats such as increased activity in the number of domains, IP addresses, and URLs with malicious reputations.

Also, did you know?

  • 25% of organizations worldwide don’t have security solutions to protect their mobile devices
  • 22% of Canadians believe they are protected from the increasing number of threats on the Internet (Leger Marketing survey commissioned by McAfee Canada, May 2011)
  • Canadian consumers value their digital assets (personal photos, entertainment files, contacts) at more than $48,000
  • 17 million, or half of all Canadians, are on social networks (Ipsos July 2011)

Planning to share content on Facebook and Twitter while you travel?

  • 86% of Canadians using social media are on Facebook, 20% are on Twitter (up from 1% in 2009), and 14% are on LinkedIn
  • Given the huge user base of Facebook and its continued growth as the preeminent social networking site, Facebook-specific malware continues to be one of the most prevalent threats encountered by McAfee Labs
  • Approximately one in every 400 URLs were malicious on average, and at their highest levels, approximately one in every 200 URLs were malicious. This brings the total active malicious URLs to more than 700,000 in 2011
  • Both 2011 and the fourth quarter were by far the busiest periods for mobile malware that McAfee has seen yet, with Android firmly fixed as the largest target for writers of mobile malware

So, here are the most popular types of scams and attacks targeting travellers and some tips on how to safeguard your digital devices and data from cybercriminals.

  • Vacation Scams
    • Even before you leave on a trip you may encounter vacation-related scams that offer too-good-to-be-true deals in an effort to trick you out of your money and information.
    • A typical travel scam is a phony website featuring beautiful pictures of real hotels and vacation destinations at rock-bottom prices asking you to enter your credit card information.
  • Free Wi-Fi Hazards
    • Cybercriminals sometimes use free Wi-Fi networks to lure unsuspecting users who don’t realize that their data is being intercepted.
    • The most popular Wi-Fi networks to be compromised are those inside airports, coffee shops, and hotels.
  • Public PCs at Hotels
    • If you use public PCs in hotel lobbies, business centres or cafes, you could run into malware or have your information stolen since these computers sometimes have keyloggers on them, which record the information you type and send it to cybercrooks.

Here are some McAfee tips on safeguarding your digital devices and data from cybercriminals:

  • Before you go on vacation:
    1) Backup your data.

    • Software such as McAfee Mobile Security makes it easy by offering backup and restore functions that allow you to access your data online from anywhere.

    2) Install antivirus software on your device.

    • McAfee Labs collected 8,000 total mobile malware samples by the end of Q1 2012, indicating a sharp rise in attacks on mobile devices [1].
    • Consider installing security such as McAfee All Access, which can provide antivirus and anti-spyware protection, along with a host of other security features, across all of your devices (computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets).

    3) Use lock, locate and wipe software.

    • Software such as McAfee Mobile Security  not only includes lock, locate, and wipe capabilities, but it also offers antivirus and anti-spyware protection.

    4) Password-protect your device.

    • This will prevent a stranger from accessing your data if your device is lost or stolen.
    • Use numbers, letters, and symbols to strengthen the security of your online passwords.

    5) Be prepared in case your phone is lost or stolen by having the phone number or website of your carrier handy.

    6) Let your family and close friends know when and where you are travelling and how to reach you.

    7) Disable automatic connections to make sure your digital devices are not set up to automatically connect to any wireless networks within your range.

    8 ) Consider a virtual private network (VPN) service so your data is encrypted and cannot be intercepted by cybercrooks.

  • During your trip:
    1) Be suspicious of connecting to free wireless hotspots.

    2) Turn off file sharing to prevent hackers from stealing data.

    3) Log out of your accounts remotely.

    4) If you do mobile banking, make sure to download your bank’s official app to ensure that you’re visiting the right site and not a copycat site.

    5) Make sure that websites you visit are using a secure connection, indicated by “https://” at the beginning of the Web address.

    6) If your device starts acting strangely, avoid using it for online banking until you can get it checked out.

    7) Immediately report lost or stolen devices.

    8 ) Use safe search technology to avoid running into malicious sites.

    • Safe search tools such as McAfee SiteAdvisor for computers and SiteAdvisor for Android devices can tell you right in your search results whether a site is safe to click on.

    9) Don’t post information about your trip on social networks until you return home so as to avoid alerting people that your house will be empty.

    10) Consider parental protection software to prevent your kids from running into inappropriate content or websites while using the devices on the road.

  • When you return home: 
    1) Download your pictures and videos and post them onto a backup service to keep them safe.

    2) Check your privacy settings before posting your family photos and videos to ensure that only people in your network can see them.

    3) Check your credit cards and wireless statements for suspicious charges.

    • If you see anything you don’t recognize, contact your account provider immediately to determine whether your account has been compromised.

[1] McAfee Q1 2012 Threats Report

[2] McAfee’s Digital Assets Survey

Have a Safe and Enjoyable Vacation with Digital Devices!