Imagine vacationing without a smartphone — cybercriminals can’t

Roman Cuprik

With all of the fake websites and apps out there, critical cybersecurity for travelers begins at home before the trip even starts.

In the past, when travelers prepared for a long trip, they worried about getting lost, so they packed, among other things, a map, a compass, a radio, a dictionary, and a flashlight. Now it´s all more compact — all integrated into a smartphone. Thus, it is no surprise that many of us can’t imagine a trip without this little assistant.

But, just as travelers in history needed to be wary of pirates and highwaymen, so modern tourists preparing for the upcoming summer must also protect themselves from criminals operating in cyberspace.

The stakes can be quite high. Threat actors can not only abuse smartphones to steal identities or money from their owners but also make an entrance into their employers’ business systems. Let’s be honest: how many of us use personal smartphones for work or vice versa? They say don’t mix business with pleasure, but nowadays it is hard to avoid.

Cybersecurity begins at home

As of April 2024, AV-TEST, the Independent IT-Security Institute, has shown that smartphones have faced nearly 35 million instances of Android malware. The increasing greed shown by cybercriminals is also displayed in the latest ESET H2 2023 Threat Report noticing a rise of Android threats by 22%.

As cybercriminals become more creative, mobile device safety needs to be far more sophisticated than just keeping the device close and not accessing free Wi-Fi at coffee shops.

As this ESET research blog shows, the dangers begin as soon as an eager traveler begins checking visitor/tourist recommendations about a destination.

Threat actors can abuse legitimate festival, traveling, or accommodation websites to steal victims’ personal data, and money, and deliver malware or create impersonation websites to do the same. Another threat can come from abused apps such as fake translation apps or trojanized legitimate chat apps.

Moreover, some of those attacks do not truly take aim at smartphone users, but rather seek to abuse compromised mobile devices to access employers’ internal systems via hijacked corporate accounts, for example.

Staying safe

If you want to learn more about travel scams, check out this blog. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself:

  • If possible, do not take corporate devices on vacation, and do not use your personal devices for work.
  • Update your software and back up your device data regularly.
  • Set up anti-theft tools to help you find a lost or stolen device.
  • Stop auto-connecting and think twice before connecting to any public wireless hotspot.
  • If forced to connect to a public wireless hotspot, use a VPN. Think twice before conducting sensitive operations such as online banking or online shopping.
  • Be cautious when downloading apps, especially from websites and third-party app stores.
  • Always check a developer’s background and app reviews before downloading a new app.
  • If the new app starts to behave strangely, delete it immediately.
  • Only buy tickets from an event organizer or an official and trusted third-party vendor.

Reliable cybersecurity

The last but arguably most important tip is to download reputable mobile security software emphasizing prevention. Without us going into much technical detail, be aware that there are sophisticated cybercampaigns that cannot be spotted by the human eye or caught by basic antivirus software.

This means that mobile users should have a reliable cybersecurity solution installed to protect them from these advanced threats, ideally before they execute. 

ESET Mobile Security takes a proactive approach and can detect and block threats during the download process, even before installation occurs. This means that the threat never reaches the user. EMS scans all files in download folders and can also be used to scan already existing apps to double-check that you haven’t let in the devil in disguise.

ESET Mobile Security Premium also comes with handy tools such as Anti-Phishing, Anti-Theft, Payment Protection, and App Lock. These protect travelers’ data in case they mistakenly visit a known phishing website, their mobile devices are stolen, or when someone wants to intercept their communications with a bank or an online shop.   

Enjoy your trip without looking over your shoulder

None of this should discourage you from enjoying your trip. Quite the opposite, having a vacation should be a relaxing experience!

With the right cybersecurity solution (and a bit of awareness), you can have a great time without constantly looking over your shoulder in cyberspace knowing that your device is safe and your digital progress is protected. Have a great summer!