1 on 1 with McAfee India Managing Director Venkat Krishnapur, on ‘staying safe on the road’

How does security take a backseat during vacation?

While pirates or highwaymen used to be a looming threat to travellers a few centuries ago, today’s globe trotters still face those criminals, but they’ve changed their methods to focus on digital attacks instead.

It could be a weekend getaway, a family vacation, a group tour or a package holiday, these days majority of the travel plans begin on the internet. While managing travel budgets, people don’t spot the warning signs, and often end up being conned by cybercriminals.

Not checking the authenticity of a website before booking a holiday online and willingly connecting to an unsecure network without a VPN are some of the basic and common mistakes through which a scam artist could swindle you out of a well-earned vacation.

Additionally, the more traditional cybercriminals will seek to gain access to your devices and personal data, to execute identity theft, where an imposter obtains key pieces of personally identifiable information to impersonate someone else.

What are the risks of using unsecure and unreliable websites?

Don’t let what seems like a good deal ruin your holiday, as rogue third-party travel and ticketing websites are becoming a growing menace. Hackers use the holiday season rush and the traveller’s ignorance to their advantage and cheat them through counterfeit websites and malicious advertisements.

Cybercrooks dupe unsuspecting travellers under the guise of fake travel servicing agencies. Look out for the red flags as many scam sites impersonate major travel companies. Always double-check the URL and make sure the site is verified to be HTTPS – not HTTP. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP.

Customer reviews help assess the genuineness of the deal and website. If you’re uncertain that a website and the deal offered is legitimate, go through the customer reviews section to learn from others’ experiences.

What are the threats of public Wi-Fi and the use of a VPN?

You’d often see open Wi-Fi networks while searching for connection and connect your devices to it because it’s free. And don’t we all love freebies! If you plan to stay connected while you’re away, be very cautious of the networks you use, and avoid free Wi-Fi as far as possible.

It is easy for hackers to access private information stored on your device over an unsecure network. They simply use a piece of software to scan the network and look for any services you may have left open.

Or even worse, they can set up their own free Wi-Fi network in a public place, giving them access to any device that connects with it.

Could you give us a few guidelines to online safety while travelling?

Do your research and ensure that the websites you use to manage your holiday bookings are legitimate and secure, as it is easy for a con artist to spoof a URL and package it to look like a known travel site.

While booking a hotel or a flight that requires you to sign up on the website, create a very secure password that cannot be easily guessed and enable two-factor authentication to log into the account.

Be cautious before conducting banking, financial or shopping transactions on such Wi-Fi networks, without any exceptions. To avoid personal data theft, consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt any data sent to or from your device.

A VPN is a kind of cloak for web browsers and creates a secure encrypted connection. Anything you send or receive over a VPN is safe and allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet.

Whether you realise it or not, you may face new dangers while you’re travelling, away from your secure networks. Safeguarding your digital data is one of the most important traits of being a responsible, well prepared traveller.

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Free Press Journal