The Sochi Olympics started with a bang (or was it a door buster?) and security issues. Amidst the reports of unfinished hotel rooms and substandard water, NBC warned travelers they would be immediately hacked upon landing in Russia. This story was quickly debunked by other media outlets and security experts:
Cybersecurity researchers, in Twitter (TWTR) messages and blog posts, soon questioned the accuracy of the reporting. “That NBC story is 100% fraudulent,” read the headline of a post by Robert Graham at Errata Security. Hacks happened because of the websites visited by Engel and Wilhoit, as Graham points out, and had nothing to do with the physical location of the devices they used. There is an increased risk from being in Russia because of geolocation—more sketchy Russian websites, for instance, will show up in Internet search results—but that’s something users can turn off. As for the smartphone, it was used willingly to download a hostile Android application. “The only thing that can be confirmed by the story is ‘don’t let Richard Engel borrow your phone,’” Graham writes (source: Businessweek)
Travelers and mobile users everywhere in the world should take some basic precautions to keep your data and your phone safe.
- Proceed with caution when downloading apps, particularly outside of the “official app stores”
- When downloading a new app, check the reputation before you proceed
- Examine the permissions requested whenever installing a new app
- Be wary when encountering links to unknown sites and if it seems suspicious don’t click
- Use mobile device management (MDM) to track your phone and wipe it in case it gets lost or stolen (there are many free and low cost options, including our Free MDM App)
- Use a VPN when browsing the web from a public network, especially when you are viewing sensitive info (like online banking)
And the best tip for vacation, or perhaps enjoying your vacation? Unplug and disconnect as much as you can so you have more time to enjoy the sites!