It should be common knowledge by now NOT to post to social media sites while you're on vacation. It's a signal to robbers that your house is empty and ready for pillaging.
But now, a new study from Intel Security is finding other scary risks associated with posting to sites like Facebook while on vacation: your online security and personal data as a whole.
If you're traveling anywhere in America, you might want to think twice before you post that vacation photo to Facebook. It turns out, the good old US of A is the number one riskiest place for mobile malware data breaches.
To make matters worse, this malware comes in a number of different forms and can attack you in a number of different ways. But, the most popular are probably malicious ads and misleading websites you click on, which will then install the malware to your phone.
All of these threats can also come from free and public Wi-Fi, spam and phishing emails, SMS or text messages, even from within some apps you download.
But just how many threats are there? The study identified the number of known mobile threats in each country and can now tell you the most dangerous country, in terms of malware threats. Here's the full list:
- USA - 4,816,822
- United Kingdom - 2,185,527
- Spain - 1,697,645
- France - 694,547
- Poland - 475,225
- Canada - 398,895
- Italy - 394,621
- Portugal - 375,105
- The Netherlands - 329,949
- Greece - 75,699
Despite these scary numbers, other polls and surveys show that travelers aren't willing to leave their smartphones behind. In fact, it's the top gadget people use to get around while on vacation. Others meanwhile, don't like to be cut off from their social networks and will connect to any Wi-Fi connection they can get their hands on. It's not a good idea, but most can't resist and will get anxious if they can't connect online.
What to do
When you travel, it's tempting to use the public Wi-Fi network at the airport, coffee shops and other venues, or even the guest login provided for your hotel room. But you probably shouldn't. Public Wi-Fi is open to everyone, which makes it a prime target for hackers. And every device is susceptible, no matter if it's your laptop, tablet or smartphone.
For that reason, you need to be careful whenever you join a public network. If you must use public Wi-Fi, then use these tips to protect yourself:
Ask for the network name: Just because a public Wi-Fi network pops up and asks if you want to join, doesn't mean it's legitimate. If you're at a coffee shop, hotel, or other place of business, ask an employee for the specific name of their Wi-Fi network. Scammers will sometimes create networks called "Coffee Shop" or "Hotel Guest" to make you believe you're connecting to the real thing when, actually, you're not.
Be skeptical of links: Scammers are skilled at making links seem enticing so you'll fall for their trick, but there are some signs that should make you think twice before you click. First, if something makes an outrageous claim or sounds too good to be true, it's probably not legitimate. Second, if you're prompted to download something, you probably should avoid it. Here's a little trick: To see what's hiding behind a hyperlink, see what shows up in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen when you hover your mouse over it.
Avoid certain websites: Unless you're planning to do some general web surfing, it's probably best to avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. When using public Wi-Fi, always assume that somebody out there is watching. Here's a good rule of thumb: If it requires a username and password to log in, you should only access that site from your own private network.
Stay encrypted: When you do connect to public networks, encrypted data is essential to your online security. However, you can't always trust that the network is encrypting that data for you. Visiting SSL sites, or websites that begin with the letters H-T-T-P-S means that the data exchanged is being encrypted. But you still may want to take additional precautions.
Use VPNs: You might not realize that it's easy to create your own private network. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, can be created wherever you go if you have the right software. There are several apps that create VPNs, as well as online security software.