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Holiday hackers hone in on Aussie favourite Thailand

June 15, 2019 Statistics & Trends No Comments Email Email

McAfee has revealed how cybercriminals are capitalising on consumers’ risky holiday booking habits for their favourite destinations. The findings show holiday hot spots such as Thailand, India, the Philippines and the UK generate the riskiest search results when people are on the hunt for holidays online.

The top holiday destinations for Aussies that hackers are targeting via potentially malicious sites:

  1. New Delhi, India
  2. Bangkok, Thailand
  3. London, England
  4. Phuket, Thailand
  5. Manila, Philippines

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 even capture passwords.

“Wham, bam, thank you scam…”

McAfee’s survey of 1,000 Aussies shows the tactic is paying off for cybercriminals, with almost one in five (18%) people reporting they have been scammed or came very close to being scammed, when booking a holiday online.

Bargain-hunting Aussies are most at risk, with almost a third of holiday fraud victims (32%) being scammed after spotting a great deal which turned out to be fake. In addition to planting malware-ridden search results, hackers send malicious links through text messages, emails and pop-up adverts.

With a quarter (25%) booking holidays through email promotions and pop-up ads, Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee fellowcomments:

“We strongly advise people to validate deals, holiday rentals and flights directly via trusted brands’ websites, instead of clicking on links and pop-ups offering bargains. Once they’ve validated its authenticity, all communication and payment should be conducted via that trusted platform to help keep personal and financial information out of hackers’ hands.”

Taking stock before you book

The excitement of nabbing a great holiday deal is prioritised by many Aussies, leaving them open to fraud, with almost a quarter (23%) failing to check the authenticity of a website before making an online booking because they either get excited and security becomes an afterthought, want to book quickly or not waste time and miss out on the deal.

However, the excitement can quickly turn into a holiday horror, as more than a quarter of holiday scam victims (28%) said they only realised the site or reservation method they used was fraudulent, when they turned up to their holiday rental to find the booking wasn’t actually valid. Meanwhile, almost a quarter (23%) admitted they don’t know how to check if a site is trusted.

Keeping data safe at home and away

Of particular concern is that network security is being deprioritised. More than 1 in 3 (38%) Aussies fail in always making sure they are on a secured Wi-Fi network, risking data-sensitive activity they are increasingly using their devices for. This includes checking and sending e-mails (69%), sharing pictures on social media (51%) and managing money through a banking app (48%).

Additionally, almost a third of Aussies (34%) said they use work devices while on holiday, and 22% can’t resist looking at their work email despite being out of the office. Though work devices are connected to a wealth of confidential data via corporate cloud, email and productivity services, the vast majority admitted they connect to public Wi-Fi in the airport (58%) and hotel (58%), potentially putting sensitive business information at risk.

Raj Samani added: “Businesses are working hard to enable people to work collaboratively and flexibly through productivity tools and apps based in the cloud. While it’s their responsibility to ensure the appropriate security is in place, no matter where their employees are in the world, cybersecurity threats exist and proactive steps must be taken by those using work devices abroad to minimise the risk.”

McAfee’s tips for identifying authentic booking sites and safe surfing on holiday to prevent travellers becoming victims:

  1. Always connect with caution. If you need to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network (VPN) such as McAfee Safe Connect to help keep your connection secure.
  2. Think before you click. Often times, cybercriminals use phishing emails or fake sites to lure consumers into clicking links for products or services that could lead to malware. If you receive an email asking you to click on a link with a suspicious URL, it’s best to avoid interacting with the message altogether.
  3. Browse with security protection. Use a comprehensive security solution, like McAfee Total Protection, which includes McAfee WebAdvisor that can help identify malicious websites.

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