Travelling this summer? Beware these malware hotspots

Accessing the internet on your smartphone while travelling could be risky unless you take a few necessary precautions, says a study conducted by Intel Security.

Surfing the web in Spain and the United States might land your privacy in hot soup but the UK is no better, adds the study.

You must have already made your summer holiday plans, subscribed to free roaming deals, packed in SD cards to store your memories and kept some money aside to buy cheap data packs, but Intel Security has suggested some quick tips to ensure that your smartphone doesn't get corrupted by malware while you're busy sharing and posting during your travels.

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Smartphones are as essential during holidays as they are when you're home. They let you take lovely pictures, high quality videos, create collages and share with your friends when you want to. It is thus no wonder that 79% of Brits plan on staying connected to the internet during the holidays. However, the worrying bit about all of this is that more than half of all travelling Brits don't care if the networks they will connect their phones to will be secure or not.

“Whether at work, home or on holiday, we all rely on mobile phones to stay connected to our friends, family and followers. All too often though, people throw little caution to the wind when it comes to protecting their data away from home, and are often quick to use devices to access sensitive information, without considering the potential risk,” said Nick Viney, VP Consumer, Intel Security.

Intel Security noted that the United States and Spain, which are the most popular holiday destinations for Brits, topped the list of regions where the most mobile malware threats were identified last year. While the United States and Spain witnessed 4.8 million and 1.7 million mobile malware attacks last year, Britain was equally vulnerable with 2.1 million mobile malware attacks.

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Mobile internet is such a integral part of our lives that 42% of Brits feel anxious about not staying connected, whether it is to interact on social media or to access work e-mails. This anxiety causes travellers to connect to any network or public Wi-Fi hotspot that they can find during their travels. If a network is not secure enough, hackers can either penetrate your phone's security or send over malware through 'malicious websites, spam, malicious SMS messages, malware-laden ads, and downloaded apps', says the study. Such malware can be used to steal data from your phone which may include bank accounts, contacts, text messages and media files.

Apart from Spain and the United States, other popular destinations like France, Poland, Canada, Italy and Portugal also figured in the list of most malware-affected regions. However, if you keep your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off, keep tabs on your banking transactions and don't post your location or travel plans publicly, there's a big chance that you phone will be safe from malicious malware as long as you're away. Given that Britain is equally vulnerable to such attacks, observing such precautions at all times will be great for your privacy.

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“There is no reason for holiday makers to be scared of connecting while they are away. People simply need to take the necessary precautions to ensure they are surfing safely when travelling, such as keeping an eye on accounts and activity and making sure you only connect to secure networks,” Viney added.

Given that data roaming is on its way out in the rest of Europe, network operators like EE, Three and Vodafone are also offering free roaming facilities in a large number of countries in Europe and elsewhere. Such being the case, there'll be little need for you to access public Wi-Fis and local hotspots while travelling. However, if you do connect your phone to new networks, says the research, they better be secure.

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