Protect Yourself this Travel Season

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In 2018, nearly 42 million Americans traveled over Memorial Day weekend to kick off the summer season. Travelers should remember to be on high alert with their sensitive information. Earlier this year, IBM X-Force reported that the transportation industry has become a lucrative target for cybercriminals as the 2nd most attacked industry. Why? The travel and transportation industry is a gold mine for hackers looking for data like passport, payment, travel itineraries, flight manifests, and even schematics of how airplanes are built. In fact, this industry is no stranger to cybersecurity incidents with more than 683 million records compromised since January 2018 — more than the populations of the US, Mexico, and Brazil combined. It’s the perfect storm for criminals: travelers are often caught dropping their guards, opting for convenience over security to do things like quickly charge devices, make purchases, post to social media, and more.  

Given this data, it’s critical that travelers be vigilant with their highly coveted information. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of IBM Security found:

  • Travelers Make Risky Choices for Convenience: 7 in 10 Americans surveyed have connected to public Wi-Fi, charged a device using a public USB station, or enabled auto-connect on their devices putting their information at risk.
  • Travelers Lack Confidence to Protect Their Data: Only 25% of respondents say they are very or extremely confident in their abilities to protect themselves from cybercrime while traveling. 

IBM Security’s Caleb Barlow, VP of X-Force Threat Intelligence shares actionable guidance to travelers on how to safeguard their information during the busy travel season. Recommendations include:

  • Monitor Loyalty Rewards: Your loyalty information and rewards are as good as cash to cybercriminals. Monitor accounts for unusual activity, use strong passwords, set up multifactor authentication where possible.
  • Choose Your Wi-Fi With Care: It’s easy for cybercriminals to host Wi-Fi networks in public places to collect data such as credit card information and more. Even legitimate networks hosted by establishments can be open to digital eavesdropping. Avoid public networks if you can; and consider using a VPN for additional security.
  • Bring A Backup Battery: Free USB power charging stations may come with a cost you can’t see. Cybercriminals can modify USB connections to download data from your phone or install malware without your knowledge. Instead, bring your own battery bank to recharge your phone when you’re low or use traditional wall plugs instead of USB ports.
  • Turn Off Unneeded Connectivity: If you don’t need it, turn it off. This includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and auto-connecting to networks.  
  • Shred Your Tickets: The little scraps of paper from your tickets, boarding pass, luggage tag, or hotel folio may seem useless and harmless after you complete your trip, but savvy criminals can gather a lot of information about your loyalty rewards program from them. Be sure to save them until you can destroy them appropriately by shredding.
  • Be Smart When Paying: Don’t use your debit card at stores or restaurants that may not have the security to protect their point-of-sale systems. If you use an ATM, select one inside a bank branch or inside an airport, where the chance of tampering or skimmers on the ATM is reduced. 

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