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Cybercriminals target Canadians planning summer vacations


June 17, 2019
By CS Staff

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MARKHAM, Ont.—Cybersecurity software firm McAfee says cybercriminals are capitalizing on consumers’ risky travel booking habits. The findings of a survey show that popular beach destinations around the world and cities in the United States generate the riskiest search results when people are hunting for vacation deals online.

Top summer destinations hackers are targeting via potentially malicious sites:

  1. Palm Springs, California
  2. Male, Maldives
  3. Belize City, Belize
  4. Chicago, Illinois
  5. Cancun, Mexico

According to McAfee, taking advantage of the high search volumes for accommodation and deals in these popular destinations, cybercriminals drive unsuspecting users to potentially malicious websites that can be used to install malware, steal personal information and passwords. McAfee’s survey of 1,000 Canadians found that nearly one-third of consumers (30%) are leaving the door open to fraud because they do not check the authenticity of a website before booking a trip online.

Bargain shopping can have a high cost

McAfee’s survey confirms that cybercriminals’ tactic of targeting vacation goers is paying off. Bargain-hunting Canadians are most at risk, with nearly a third of vacation scam victims (33%) being defrauded after spotting a deal that was too good to be true.

Approximately 30% of travel-related scam victims report they lost between $1,000 and $3,000 as a result of the fraudulent activity. Meanwhile, a small group of victims (14%) had their identity stolen after sharing their passport details with cybercriminals during the booking process.

The majority of survey respondents (78%) worried about having their identity stolen during the research and booking process, or while traveling abroad for summer vacations. But despite these worries, less than 25% of people feel that they have the right security in place to prevent their identity from being stolen.

“The last thing that consumers should have to deal with during or after a vacation is an identity scam or personal privacy issue,” said Gary Davis, McAfee’s chief consumer security evangelist, in a prepared statement. “While cybersecurity threats unfortunately exist during most stages of the booking and travel experience, consumers can take proactive steps to protect themselves and minimize the risk to ensure scams and other nefarious activities don’t spoil summer travel plans.”

Keeping your data safe

Despite 36% of people expressing concerns of having their personal data stolen while on vacation, almost half (47%) said they either do not check the security of their internet connection or they willingly connect to an unsecured network while traveling.

With 86% of Canadians using their personal devices on vacation, McAfee says network security is not being prioritized. This is further amplified by the finding that people are using devices for data-sensitive activity such as checking and sending e-mails (64%), and managing money through a banking app (32%).

Additionally, a third (30%) of Canadians said they use work devices while on vacation. Despite work devices being connected to a wealth of personal and private data via corporate cloud, email and productivity services, the vast majority admitted they connect to public Wi-Fi in the airport (58%) and hotel (75%), potentially putting sensitive business information at risk.