How Hackers Can Ruin Your Summer Vacation

From airports to hotels to that cute café you found, it just takes one cybersecurity slipup to turn your holiday into a nightmare.

It was the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta. Ken Spinner, then a systems consultant — and tourist in the city — lost his credit card information.

But this was more than two decades ago, so it happened the old-fashioned way: a mugging at the ATM.

Today, hackers can steal your banking and credit card information without leaving their couches. That’s particularly worrisome if you’re taking off for the summer. It’s peak vacation time, but it’s also the perfect season for hackers.

As Americans take more than 657 million trips between now and Labor Day weekend, they’re vulnerable to cyberattacks that steal their credit card data and personal information. For cyberthieves, resort hotels and airports make for lucrative hunting grounds.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Growing Threat of Ransomware and How to Stay Safe

It’s no different from why thieves and pickpockets target tourists on vacation: They’re in an unfamiliar setting, they have their guard down and, more importantly, they’ve got money.

It’s like why people rob banks. That’s where the money is. When people go on vacation they use airports and stay at resorts.

From a cybersecurity perspective, hotels aren’t exactly bastions of relaxation. Over a three-month time-span surrounding the 2016 holiday season, more than 1,200 InterContinental Hotels suffered hacks. Malware has also hit President Donald Trump’s luxury hotel chain, along with Sheraton, Westin, Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, Kimpton and Wyndham hotels — the list goes on.

In every one of those breaches, thieves stole credit card information from the hotels, leaving thousands of unsuspecting customers open to getting robbed. It’s not just your money these hotels are losing; addresses, phone numbers, names, and check-in and check-out times are all fair game.

unsecured Wi-Fi

Because many hotels are chains, one breached location means hackers can break into the entire network for the mother lode of information. The stolen information can be sold online for up to $50 per account.

The majority of incidents start from a single employee at a hotel getting phished.

So even if your family takes all the precautions to keep your credit card information safe, and the hotel you stay at is safe, it could be a part of a compromised network. You could do nothing wrong and still lose.

Union Built PC feels hotels should invest more in encryption and in testing their security systems regularly.

RELATED: How Union Built PC Resolved the Cyber Terrorism Strike Against JATC Union Local 351

But the breaches don’t stop at hotels. Airports, coffee shops, beaches — any place with open Wi-Fi, really — should have you on the lookout.

Safe Travels

Don’t fret too much, though. There are still ways to keep yourself safe.

When you’re traveling, and don’t have your precious home or office internet access, be wary of any public Wi-Fi network you jump on. You might be setting yourself up for a man-in-the-middle attack.

That’s when a thief will set up a bogus hotspot, made to look exactly like the public Wi-Fi you wanted to get on, like the hotel lobby’s or the airport’s. When you sign on, you’re actually sending all your data to the hacker, without any warnings that you’re being compromised in plain sight.

It happens so frequently that in Singapore more people are afraid of using public Wi-Fi than public toilets.

Plus, people typically have their guard down when they’re on vacation. They won’t consider what the implications are if they go to a rogue Wi-Fi hotspot.

Without question, when on any public WiFi hotspot, avoid banking websites and online shopping. Anywhere you are entering your personal financial information. Always use an encrypted connection. 

RELATED: Protect Your Sensitive Data from Cyber Criminals with the Union Built Cloud

Going Electronically Naked

In some more extreme cases, consider going “electronically naked.” That means leaving every piece of technology at home: your phone, your laptop, your tablet, your iPad – everything! (It’s hard to conceive but read on.)

There are entire retreats dedicated to detoxing from digital life, so the idea of going on vacation without any technology isn’t as farfetched as you may think. Cyber Security experts most often go “electronically naked” when visiting China or Russia. This is where the majority of hackers emanate from.

Enigma Software took a look at cities in the US, Canada and Europe that have the highest malware infection rates. So if you’re heading to any of these cities, you may want to consider going electronically naked:

highest-malware-infection-ratesYOUR TURN

Has your personal financial data been breached? On vacation or otherwise? What happened? What was the resolution process like? We want to hear from you! Sound off in Comments, on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, or on our Twitter or LinkedIn Feeds.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Ransomware became three times as expensive in 2016

The average price to free your computer from ransomware used to be $294. It’s more than tripled in the last year.

Laptop-computer-on-fire
Ransomware averages at $1,077 per victim now. It might be cheaper to just do this.

It’s getting more expensive to keep up with ransomware.

As victims struggle to deal with cyberattacks locking up their systems, payouts are on the rise for hackers who target entire computer networks. Ransomware hides onto computers before encrypting important files, demanding victims pay up if they ever want access again.

RELATED: How Union Built PC Resolved the Cyber Terrorism Strike Against JATC Union Local 351

Throughout 2016, ransomware has become an increasingly popular malware for hackers, hitting San Francisco’s public transportation system, Congress and hospitals. As hackers find creative ways to extort money by holding computers hostage, ransoms are becoming less affordable while the malware becomes tougher to crack. In the near future, the average person might not even be able to pay off ransomware, even if he or she wanted to.

The MIRCOP ransomware demanded $28,730 from victims, the highest price seen during 2016.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Growing Threat of Ransomware and How to Stay Safe

Two cybersecurity reports pointed at the startling growth of ransomware attacks during 2016. Ransomware attacks have increased by 50 percent in 2016 from 2015, now the fifth most common type of malware. In 2014, it was only the 22nd most common, according to this 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report.

The report also found that ransomware made up more than 70 percent of malware attacks on the health care industry, which includes hospitals, pharmacies and insurance agencies.

In 2016, Symantec found 463,841 instances of ransomware attacks, which rose from 340,665 in 2015. They also discovered 100 new variations of ransomware, tripling since last year. Over the last year, the security company found an average of 1,271 ransomware attacks each day.

RELATED: Protect Your Sensitive Data from Cyber Criminals with the Union Built Cloud

Ransomware’s rise comes from both how easy it is to share the malware, as well as how profitable the attacks are. When cyber criminals can share the software with each other and send out ransomware to infect systems in mass amounts through email, it’s a quick formula for an easy buck.

In 2015, the average profit for a cyber thief through ransomware was $294. Symantec found in its Internet Security Threat Report that demands have more than tripled, jumping up 266 percent to an average $1,077 per victim. Depending on how important the files are, it might be cheaper to just buy a new computer.

They can afford to raise the price when the majority of victims are willing to just pay the price. In the US, 64 percent of ransomware victims opt to pay the ransom, with the software often times being too difficult to crack, even for the FBI.

Attacks have become more sophisticated, going after entire drive systems as opposed to specific files to hold hostage. Ransoms can now also increase for every day it’s not paid, and some ransomware function as pyramid schemes, offering freedom if victims can infect two or more people.

RELATED: Why You Need Cloud Storage

YOUR TURN

Organizations like No More Ransom are fighting back against ransomware with free decryption tools. The group estimates that they’ve blocked cyber criminals from receiving more than $3 million in ransomware payouts since forming in July 2016.

Union Built PC is fighting back against ransomware by seeking to educate our clients, prospects, readers and followers. Backup is the Best Protection for your Data. We recently published a white paper to educate and guide you through the growing threat of Ransomware as well as information on Union Built Cloud services, a best-in-class secure data storage solution that automatically backs up your data keeping it out of the hands of cyber criminals. Use them and navigate the web with a lot more peace of mind.

Learn more about the Union Built Cloud, contact us with your cyber security questions and concerns and like Union Built PC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and subscribe to the Union Built PC monthly email newsletter for Union News delivered straight to your inbox.