With the relaxation of summer, cyber dangers are accentuated: this is how you can protect yourself during the holidays | Your Technology | The country
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He’s been waiting all year for this moment. It’s time to pack your suitcase, take the car and get to the beach. Or to take the plane and visit that country that I wanted to know so much. Whatever your summer plans, chances are you’ll be using your mobile phone for just about anything—from checking a route to uploading beach photos to your Instagram profile to watching a series. You may also end up using a public computer to, for example, do the check in of your return flight. What surely is not part of your plans is to fall into the trap of a cybercriminal who can ruin the long-awaited vacation. According to the cybersecurity technician for citizens of the National Institute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE) Ruth García, “in general, all users lower their guard in summer.” To avoid any bad experience, you can follow these simple tips that will help you avoid risks without spending too much time and effort.
Before the trip, beware of vacation rentals
Ruth García explains that when it comes to rentals during this period, “the excuses that cybercriminals usually use are, for example, that they cannot show the flat because they are abroad. If the user requests something specific that the landlord would not normally accept (such as painting a room), it says yes to everything. If they ask for payments in advance or transfers abroad, we can also find ourselves cheated”.
According to the technique, “there have been situations in which someone who had rented an apartment and, when he arrived at the place, the building or even the street did not exist. It is recommended to search for the address on Google Maps to check if at least the area is urbanized or, even if they have given you the name and surname of the person who is going to rent you, you can also search for information about that person to see if they exist.
It is best to resort to recognized platforms and services to carry out this type of procedure and not to any internet advertisement. Fraud can also occur on these platforms, but at least “you have a little support from that company behind it, in case you have a problem,” explains García. Also, fraudulent listings or profiles on those pages are often removed quickly.
Although it looks great in that photo, think twice about uploading it
In full vacation, it is likely to feel the adrenaline of having a good time and living a moment that has been awaited for months. It is natural that she wants to share it with her friends and acquaintances. However, before uploading the photos you just took to your social networks, you should consider whether they provide too much information. Ruth García explains: “In a photo, not only is the landscape or a dish shown, it often informs whether we are at home or not, if we are accompanied, the lifestyle we lead, if we have a high purchasing power… We already know that Crime tends to increase during vacation periods, taking advantage of the fact that many people are not at home, and the networks can be a very useful information channel for them. Although it may not seem relevant to us, for someone who wants to harm us it can be.” That is why it is also recommended not to share locations or show that you are away from home.
In addition to this type of danger, there may be another related to images: that of regretting, within a certain time, having shared a certain type of photograph. “In these periods we participate in more parties, events, leisure activities… There may be images that we want to upload, being in a bikini, for example, but we have to reflect on whether in two or three years we are going to want it to be on the network because, even if we wanted to remove it, other people could have copied or stored it. There have been cases where certain images have been used to create false profiles and identities. And you don’t have to be a famous person; cybercriminals take advantage of any information uploaded by a normal user to get a profit from it”, insists García.
If possible, avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks
Being away from home and, of course, from work, there is the inevitable circumstance of having to resort to mobile data. Although, as the technique explains, more and more people enjoy more complete plans and with a greater number of gigabytes to browse, it is still common for users to run out of them before time or simply want to save them. Many people, “as soon as they see a free connection, they try to connect, without being aware of what it may imply”, warns the technique.
“If we connect to a Wi-Fi network whose configuration and the people who are connected are unknown to us, the risks are exponential. In principle, no one has to be using it for malicious purposes, but this risk can never be ruled out. We recommend connecting to public Wi-Fi networks only in case of extreme need or to carry out actions in which there is no exchange of personal information, not to upload our photos or carry out online procedures such as purchases”, emphasizes Ruth García.
Make backup copies so you don’t lose all the photos you’ve taken
Another of the unavoidable customs of the vacation periods is to photograph practically everything: from the drink in the beach bar to the children jumping between the waves; from the airport terminal to the views from a lookout point. To avoid losing all the images and videos that we take, it is recommended to make backup copies. When you’re not at home, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to transfer all that content to a hard drive, so use the cloud instead. Of course, as the INCIBE technician warns, you should not forget to dump everything to a USB or an external disk when you return home.
Take the opportunity to activate double verification
In recent years, double verification or double authentication factor has become more and more important and more and more platforms and services offer the option to activate them. But what exactly does it consist of? Let’s say you’re about to log in to your email or a social network. Normally, you would only need to provide the access password. Double verification shields access and asks the user to enter a code that normally reaches their mobile phone via SMS, in addition to said password. In this way, even if someone managed to find out the password, they could not access the account, according to the technique.
Since you have free time, change your passwords at once and use a manager
“If someone gets one of our passwords and it turns out that we use it for several services, cybercriminals will have access to all of them,” warns García, who insists: “It is good practice to take advantage of this time to change passwords. To memorize all of them, they can resort to mnemonic rules or simply use a password manager that works with a master password and, therefore, they only have to memorize that one”.
There are several free password managers you can use that will allow you to have very difficult random passwords without having to remember them. If you add to that the previous step, double verification, you could say that you have done everything in your power to protect your data and your devices.
As always, be careful with SMS
Although it is not something exclusive to this era, in recent times the number of frauds related to SMS messages has increased considerably. “There has been an increase in cases of impersonation of banking entities by SMS (a crime known as smishing), with many users affected and a great impact. Banks are alerting customers, but you have to be very careful. In case of any doubt about the legitimacy of the message, go to the official channels and even directly to a branch”, advises Ruth García, who also recalls that INCIBE has a free help line 017 for users who need information or guidance with any problem.
Cybercriminals are impersonating companies with fraudulent SMS of alleged account anomalies, access attempts, refund of amounts… with a clickable link. From BBVA we will never send you SMS with links, nor will we ask you for passwords or personal data.
— BBVA in Spain (@BBVA_espana) June 29, 2022
Attention to QR codes
Since the beginning of the pandemic, in order to reduce contacts between users, many companies began to opt for QR codes so that restaurant customers, for example, could consult the menu from their own mobile phone or so that visitors to a museum could access a program. Cybercriminals began to supplant those codes; sometimes with techniques as crude as sticking a sticker on top of the real code. For this reason, it is recommended to be suspicious if the website accessed when scanning the code asks the user to download, if it asks for personal data, or if it seems that a file is being executed on the device.
Although all this depends on what the user expects when scanning it. In other words, it would not make sense to download to access a restaurant menu, but perhaps it would make sense to use an application from a cultural center. The user must assess it according to common sense and, when in doubt, not provide data or allow such downloads.
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