Now that Summer is right around the corner it’s likely that many of you may have plans to do some traveling. Well, if that’s the case I’m here to make sure you add one more item to your pre-travel checklist: update your computer software.
Wait, what? Why, you ask?
The FBI recently issued a warning to travelers about the possibility that travelers may receive fake and malicious software update messages upon connecting to wireless networks at hotels. While the warning did not provide specific information regarding which hotels, countries, or software were being targeted, it appears the cyber criminals have found a backdoor into the connection process which typically involves a guest opening a web browser, entering in login information, and accepting a terms of service prior to being connected to the Internet.
The fake software update messages are reported to be for popular software that people would recognize and likely have installed on their computers, therefore reducing the likelihood of user suspicion about the notification.
So how can you protect yourself from this type of threat while traveling?
While updating your computer software before leaving on your trip is recommended, it isn’t completely unheard of for developers to release another new update in some cases (usually for a bug fix), a day or two later. As someone who is a proponent of making sure your software is always up-to-date, if you do receive a familiar software update notification while traveling you should go directly to the software developer’s website and download the update directly from them or their trusted partners. This will help ensure your computer’s security.
That being said, if you receive an unfamiliar update notification while traveling and are unsure about it, it is definitely advised to err on the side of caution and ignore it. The FBI is also encouraging people who encounter this to report it to the local FBI office.
Of course, additional security measures such as having up-to-date anti-virus software installed are recommended. Always, always run OpenDNS and make sure your coworkers and family do the same. (OpenDNS Enterprise has industry-leading malware protection.) And if you’re technical and don’t mind a work-in-progress, download the preview of DNSCrypt, which will add both privacy and security when accessing the Internet on public WiFi networks like the ones in hotels and airports.