Do you think about cyber security when you are on vacation or even just an overnight business trip?  If not, you should.

 Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly savvy and are finding new ways to steal your information from hotel web sites, front desks and even the hotel’s coffee shop.  Hotels are an attractive target for several reasons.

 1.    High volume of transactions and turnover.  Bars, restaurants, spa services, room service, room fees, business center services, pool-side drinks – all of these transactions make for increased credit card usage and cyber theft opportunities.

 2.    Whether travelling on business or vacation, travelers are not as likely to check their statements or activity while on the road.  It isn’t until a traveler returns from his trip that he notices any unusual activity on his credit card.

 3.    Wi-Fi connections in hotels are usually not as secure as you’d like to think.

 Over the years hackers have been infiltrating hotel networks and have infected hotel-owned computers and guest computers with the aim of stealing personal and confidential information. “This is usually done by hackers waiting for guests to check in and log on to the hotel WiFi by usually submitting their room number and surname,” explains a senior manager of PwC Hospitality and Gaming Industry. “Then the hotel guest gets tricked into downloading and installing a so-called backdoor file, which pretends to be an update for legitimate software, such as the Google Toolbar or Adobe Flash.”

 The unsuspecting guest downloads this hotel ‘welcome package’ only to infect his machine with spying software. Once on a network, the backdoor may be used to download more advanced tools such as an advanced key logger. Downloaded software may also look for Twitter, Facebook and Google login credentials, as well as other private information.

The hackers have been so strategic in many circumstances that they even appear to have known the names, arrival and departure times, and room numbers of their targets in past attacks. After these attacks, the hackers delete their tools from the hotel network and go back into hiding.

 So what can guests do to mitigate their risks?

 Keep anti-virus software updates, but do so from home before you travel.
Avoid updating software or opening files when not on a trusted network.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to establish an encrypted communication channel when accessing public or semi-private Wi-Fi, such as those used at Hotels, Starbucks, or even your public library.

5 Key Criteria for Selecting the VPN that Best Fits Your Needs

The acronym VPN stands for “virtual private network.” Simply put, a VPN is a type of network that is used in conjunction with a normal public network but includes increased functionality, more versatile management policies and heightened security. The security benefit is one of the main reasons why business and personal users all over the world use VPNs. When researching virtual private network providers to find one to go with, there are a few key things to remember to insure that you are spending your hard earned money in the right place.

Determine Your Standard Internet Usage Habits

If you’re a business user, for example, you’ll need a VPN that is capable of connecting your home machine to your work’s intranet network. If you share a large number of files online or are just concerned about personal information getting onto the Internet, you’ll need a VPN that provides you with security measures to protect your identity.

Research Protocols

Virtual private network protocols come in many different forms. While all of them will provide you with a secure connection, some are more vulnerable than others. PPTP protocols, for example, have a number of vulnerabilities that would make them unattractive to business users. Users who just want to protect their anonymity while they surf the Internet likely won’t be bothered.

Research Logging

Part of the point of signing up for a virtual private network is the assurance that the information you send and receive from the Internet will be kept private. If the VPN service that you choose keeps a log of all your activities, those logs could potentially be subpoenaed by a government agency. Find out exactly what a company’s logging practices are before you enter into a service agreement. Companies are not required to log your usage habits by the government, but many do and in turn can potentially make you vulnerable.

Research Security Features

Security features and privacy features are not the same thing. While privacy features protect your identity while online, security features include factors like antivirus, antimalware and antispyware protection. Certain types of VPN services bundle their product with real time intrusion detection programs that will scan files as you download them. If you try to accidentally download a virus or other type of malicious piece of software, you will be alerted before the infected file can reach your hard drive.

Research the Price

Free services may be convenient, but they also might be advertisement supported and lack features like antivirus protection. VPN services that charge will likely have all the features you need, but you’ll have to pay for those features on a monthly or yearly basis.

Adapted from articles by IT-Online and Top10Best