Holiday cybercrime: a growing threat

2024, May 14

Traveling to new destinations brings relaxation and new opportunities for discovery. However, besides the excitement, tourists also have to face the growing threat of cybercrime. Engaging with today's diverse cultures and landscapes requires vigilance against digital dangers that can disrupt the peace of any vacation.

According to VPN Rice's survey of 8,000 participants from the US, UK, Germany and France, 7% of travelers have encountered cybercrime incidents during their trips. Although this number may not seem high, the impact of these incidents is severe. We're talking about issues like unauthorized banking transactions or personal data breaches, which can have lasting consequences far beyond the holiday period.
Why travelers are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks
Deals that are too good to be true: The excitement of finding a vacation package or accommodation at a special price can make you lose your rational consideration. Fraudsters are aware of this and offer irresistible offers, taking advantage of the common desire to get the best deal.
Use public Wi-Fi: Easy access to free Wi-Fi in hotels, cafes, or tourist attractions is convenient. However, these networks are often insecure, creating opportunities for cybercriminals to intercept your traffic.
Increased online activity: While on the go, your Internet usage can skyrocket—book flights, accommodations, or check your bank account on the go. This increase in digital activity, especially when conducted on unsecured networks, can lead to the risk of falling victim to scams such as phishing.
Let your guard down: The excitement of exploring a new place can cause you to lose your usual online safety habits. Many travelers, caught up in the moment, may not be alert to online risks and engage in online behaviors they would normally avoid at home.
Targeting by cybercriminals: Travelers are often targeted by cybercriminals, based on the increase in risky behaviors listed above.
Cybercrime nearly equals physical crime around the holidays
Traditionally, travelers have been advised to be wary of physical dangers such as pickpockets or theft in hotel rooms, which affected 10% of survey participants. However, the threat from cybercrime is also becoming increasingly common, with 7% of travelers having experienced a hack or digital scam while on holiday. This rate is slightly higher for American visitors.
Financial fraud leads to cybercrime incidents among tourists
Survey participants said financial crimes such as credit card fraud, Google Pay and Apple Pay are the main types of digital crimes affecting holiday travelers. The problem is particularly acute for British and French tourists: 49% of cybercrime victims there reported experiencing financial fraud while on holiday. This compares to 39% of victims in the US and 29% of victims in Germany.
However, while money-related digital fraud accounts for an average of 42% of all travelers surveyed, other forms of cybercrime also have a significant impact on the holiday experience. rest. Public Wi-Fi snooping affected an average of 33% of respondents, highlighting the risks associated with using unsecured internet while traveling. Similarly, 33% of cybercrime victims said their social media accounts had been hacked while traveling, and a similar proportion had received phishing messages intended to trick users into revealing information. individual.
Identity theft is also a significant threat, with an average of 29% of traveler cybercrime victims reporting experiencing this situation.
Additionally, our findings show that malware infections and ransomware attacks are cybersecurity threats faced by travelers, affecting 26% and 20% of travel victims, respectively. Cybercrime.
Risk of oversharing on social networks
Social media offers the convenience of sharing our travel adventures in real time, but also comes with privacy concerns. Sharing too much information, such as current location or travel plans, can attract unwanted attention. This makes you an easy target for fraud or theft.

 

While not specifically addressing the issues encountered, our survey found that 23% of French respondents had experienced privacy problems due to oversharing while traveling—the highest among surveyed groups.
In the US, about 18% of respondents know someone who has experienced privacy or security problems due to oversharing while traveling, the highest rate among the countries surveyed.
Britons have the lowest rate of privacy problems due to oversharing, followed by Germans. This may reflect a more cautious attitude towards online sharing or a better ability to use privacy settings on social media platforms.
European tourists fear cybercrime in the US
We asked European travelers from the UK, Germany and France which areas they were most worried about cybercrime when traveling on holiday. Among the top regions of concern, the US stands out along with other popular vacation destinations such as Türkiye, Mexico and Brazil. Survey respondents were asked to choose from the United Nations list of the 50 most popular countries for international travel in 2022.

But is there any basis for these fears? To understand the validity of these concerns, we need to consider the cybersecurity landscape of these destinations. The United States actually has a robust cybersecurity infrastructure. According to a recent report by TechRadar, the United States ranks among the safer countries when it comes to cybersecurity for travelers.
Additionally, South Africa is the 13th most worrying destination according to our survey. However, according to TechRadar, this country has a quite strong cybersecurity system, reaching the top 20 in terms of cybersecurity.
In contrast, concerns regarding Türkiye, Mexico and Brazil are not unfounded. These countries have reported higher rates of cybercrime incidents, with travelers often falling victim to increasingly sophisticated scams. These countries have higher rates of digital threats and lower cybersecurity measures in place, making travellers' concerns well-founded.
Türkiye in particular faces significant digital threats, from credit card fraud to phishing attacks, making travelers cautious. Egypt and Kazakhstan also have similar concerns about data privacy issues and risks associated with using public Wi-Fi networks.
Tourists are increasingly cautious
So how much does perceived digital danger influence travel decisions? In our survey, 24% of participants said they would avoid destinations with high levels of cybercrime. In contrast, 16% of respondents said they were not discouraged by cyber threats in one location. Meanwhile, 30% said they will be more cautious when traveling to such places.
American travelers lead the way in cybersecurity confidence and preparedness
With travelers increasingly wary of cyber threats on vacation, are they really ready for what's happening out there? Americans seem to believe this.
American tourists show more confidence and positivity in dealing with cybercrime than their European counterparts. Some 21% of them said they definitely know what to do if they encounter cyber threats during their vacation, followed by the UK at 18%, France at 16% and Germany at 14%. .

Furthermore, Americans also lead the way in taking cybersecurity precautions while on vacation. 61% of them take security measures, including using strong passwords and being careful when using public Wi-Fi away from home.
The British and French are similar, with 48% of the population taking precautions, while only 39% of Germans do the same.
Cybersecurity tip: Stay safe from hackers and scammers during the holidays
1. Use VPN

Among survey respondents who take cybersecurity precautions while traveling, 31% said they use a VPN to enhance their digital security. VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your Internet connection, making it impossible for third parties to read your online activities, including Internet service providers, Wi-Fi administrators, governments and attacker. This is why VPNs are recommended when connecting to public Wi-Fi in places like airports, hotels, and coffee shops.
2. Protect your device before departure
Of those taking cybersecurity precautions, 33% have ensured that all their devices and applications are up to date. Before you leave home, make sure all your devices are updated with the latest security patches and antivirus software. Attacks can take advantage of these potential vulnerabilities, and preemptively attacking them can cause a lot of trouble later.
3. Turn off the automatic connection feature
Among respondents who take cybersecurity precautions when traveling, 41% said they avoid using public or free Wi-Fi networks to stay safe. While it's possible to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks you've used before (for example, at a coffee shop you recently visited), this can increase your risk because that may not be secure. Ideally, you should enable a VPN when using public Wi-Fi networks.
4. Be careful with public charging stations
Public USB ports can be compromised to install malware on connected devices, a method called "juice jacking". To avoid this risk, use a portable battery or plug into a power outlet using a charger. You can also buy a USB data blocker, which allows USB charging without data transfer.
5. Limit sharing on social networks
While it's fun to share every moment of your adventures in real time, doing so can alert potential thieves to your absence and reduce your physical safety. . To reduce your risk, delay posting your photos and stories until you get back. Also, adjust your privacy settings to limit who can see your posts, thereby reducing the risk of them being used for malicious purposes.
6. Choose secure payment
Credit cards and mobile payment apps are often more fraud-resistant than debit cards. To protect your personal information, RFID blockers can help prevent skimming of information on tags. For travel, consider using a dedicated travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees and strong fraud protection. Most importantly, however, always be vigilant about how much you are being charged and check the goods and services for signs of fraud before handing over your card.
7. Update information about local scams
Educating yourself about common online scams and scams can help you avoid becoming a victim, a step taken by 28% of respondents. Do your research on common scams in your destination. Sites and forums like TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet are valuable resources for recent traveler experiences.
8. Encrypt sensitive data
While traveling, it is essential to carry important personal data such as medical information on a USB memory stick, however, make sure that data is encrypted to protect information security. A simple way to ensure strong encryption is to use a VPN on your device, which prevents third parties from reading data transmitted through your phone or laptop.
9. Use a password manager
Among those who take cybersecurity precautions when traveling, 41% ensure that all their accounts are protected with strong and unique passwords, while 24% use password management application. Using password management applications helps ensure that your passwords are not only strong and unique, but are also securely stored and easily accessible, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access to your accounts. .

10. Consider travel insurance
15% of travelers who take cybersecurity precautions say they have purchased travel insurance that includes cybersecurity coverage. Travel insurance with cyber security coverage can provide an additional layer of protection, assisting in the event of digital theft, lost electronic devices, or even identity theft.

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