WiFi and apps on vacation: stay away if you have the slightest doubt!

Smartphones, tablets or laptops are permanent travel companions for many who are now going on vacation – and are often easy targets for hackers at the holiday destination. With these tips you can protect yourself.

When I went to the Netherlands for a short vacation a few days ago, I made a surprising discovery on my cell phone. Although the Dutch company’s Corona warning app is only just being tested and is still being offered for public download, I found dozens of apps in the app store that promised advice and protection against the Covid pandemic. I didn’t install any, especially not after looking at the partly indefinable functions, but especially in view of the mostly unknown to dubious publishers.

In fact, IT security service providers keep coming across fake corona warning programs these days. Behind this are hackers who use the holiday season that is just starting and want to infect travelers’ mobile phones with malware via an app. 

Just a few days ago , for example, Eset experts discovered a blackmail program disguised as a Canadian Covid app. The encryption software named “CryCryptor” appeared shortly after the Canadian government announced that it would publish an app for contact tracking. 

The malware has now been deleted from the app store. But anyone who, as a corona-conscious traveler, had installed the supposed warning app without checking would have fallen into the trap of the blackmailers. Security experts therefore urgently advise you to check who is the publisher of the mobile phone program before downloading warning apps – abroad, such as in Germany. If you have the slightest doubt, hands off!

False corona programs are the latest, but by no means the only cyber risk that travelers should protect themselves from on vacation. The greatest danger lurks on the way to the network. It is true that the motto “roam-like-home” now applies to trips within the EU, meaning that telephone and data flat rates of the domestic tariff also apply to trips to other EU countries. But even flat rates are running out if you are too eager to send holiday pictures and videos. That is why many travelers switch to free WLAN access in hotels, cafes, airports or pedestrian zones in order to access the network.

This is exactly what online criminals take advantage of in many vacation regions with prepared hotspots. These unencrypted and free internet access are used to access personal login data. They can later resell them or use them to attempt fraud. So if you have to enter sensitive information such as credit card details or the passwords for your Google, Facebook or e-mail account when accessing a public WLAN, you should avoid these offers.

And even if you don’t have to log in with personal data or even use an encrypted WLAN in a hotel, you should be careful. Spies can also lurk in these networks and read the communication between your devices and the network. To avoid this, secure the connection using VPN technology, for example. Mobile phone, tablet or PC establish a tap-proof connection, for example to the router at home.

Setting up a VPN is usually less complicated than it sounds. Owners of a Fritzbox, for example, can at least pair their Android devices with the box via app without any programming knowledge and then activate the VPN with a swipe of a finger on the mobile phone. Devices with Apple’s iOS or Windows can also be docked to the box via VPN . The decisive factor, however, is that the devices must be paired before departure, as long as the owner is still logged into the home WiFi.

The threat to cell phones and the data on them is not only digital, but also traditionally from pickpockets. In the meantime, they often no longer just access the smartphones, but also silver the user information stored on them. This applies, for example, to contact data from the phone book, but also to the access data stored there by many users for bank accounts, credit cards, online access and more. 

To prevent thieves from reading this information and selling it on criminal platforms online, you must activate a password request, unlock the cell phone via the fingerprint sensor or face recognition as a minimum level of security for the device. The unlock code should be at least six digits, so the average pickpockets can no longer crack the phones. 

Even better is the protection provided by security apps that allow the cell phone to be located remotely, all data to be deleted if necessary, or the device to be completely blocked for any further use. If desired, apps can even take photos of the thieves when they try to unlock the phone. Then they send the picture to the rightful owner. You can then use the portrait to report the theft to the police. For an overview of relevant programs in the IT portal Chip.de .

And then there is a very similar tip to protect data and devices while on vacation: Simply switch off the technology, lock the devices in the hotel safe during the day and only look at them in the evening. That leaves pickpockets and cyber gangsters alike in the void – and also makes it easier to switch off personally

Because that’s actually the most important thing on vacation.