The Safest Way to Travel? Maybe Not for Your Cybersecurity

Summertime: the kids are out of school, the weather is just right, time to go on vacation! It’s always something to look forward to, except the part where you have to use the dreaded airport to get there. Between keeping up with tickets, luggage, family members, and wandering kids, it’s no wonder thinking about cyber safety might not be high on your priority list of getting to the beach. However, a little black box that hackers can buy on the dark web for as little as $35 could very easily ruin more than just your vacation.

What place is filled with people from all over the world with all levels of income, all in one place? The airport! Hackers can make a lot of money by sitting in an airport for a few hours of work. Just imagine this scenario, which happens all the time:

Just like the average Joe going to work, the hacker enters the airport and sits down on one of many chairs, removes his laptop from his backpack, leaves the black device in his backpack, and hides it under a jacket. He looks around for a sign that gives the password for the Wi-Fi network. Meanwhile, he switches on his laptop and device, launches some programs, and soon his screen starts to fill with green text lines. His device is connecting to the laptops, smartphones, and tablets of airport visitors all around him. On his screen, phrases like “iPhone Sam” and “Betty’s MacBook” start to appear. The device’s antenna is intercepting the signals that are being sent from the laptops, smartphones, and tablets around him.

Sam is catching up on last-minute things so he doesn’t have to worry about them on the trip—checking online banking to make sure he has enough cash in checking, answering work emails, and paying a few bills. What Sam doesn’t know is that his whole life is being watched and recorded by a professional hacker, there in his airport office, to steal as much information he can, so that he can hack into Sam’s accounts and also to sell Sam’s info on the dark web. Poor Sam is unaware of the attack until he returns from his beach vacation, when his boss tells him that they have been hacked while he was gone. They traced the hack to Sam’s iPhone Outlook account.

Don’t be like Sam! Never do sensitive transactions while on public Wi-Fi—it’s far too easy for the black box to see everything you do. Be aware, be proactive, be safe! Guard your internet usage on Wi-Fi…use your hotspot or VPN! And have a GREAT and safe vacation!


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