• In addition to security problems associated with unsecure WiFi networks, cyber-cafes, etc, applications that indicate the user’s location and information exchanged across social networks also represent serious risks at this time of year
  • Use of secure networks, encryption of hard disk data to prevent information theft and a series of precautions when banking or shopping online are among the practical security measures users are urged to follow

With the boom in social networks and the numerous applications now available for sharing information across the Internet, PandaLabs, Panda Security’s anti-malware laboratory, advises users to take extra precautions to prevent falling victim to computer fraud, particularly as the summer vacation period commences in many countries.

In addition to the usual security measures, “This year we ask users to take particular care with the information they share across social networks. This applies particularly to applications used to plan journeys or to locate people geographically through GPS devices, as this information could easily be exploited to aid housebreaking”, says Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs.

These types of applications have become highly popular over the last year. Facebook apps such as Doorpl or Trip Advisor (which show messages describing where you are or where and when you are planning to go); the Twitter geolocation utility (displaying where tweets have been sent from), or services for locating mobile devices through GPS (now widely employed by iPhone or Android users), are just a few examples.

“Such programs are interesting and fun, but the problem lies in how professional criminals could exploit this information. We have already seen the emergence (and closure) of services like Pleaserobme, which as its name suggests, connects with these applications to offer information about who is not at home at any moment. This underlines how careless we can be as users when offering personal information publicly”, adds Corrons.

Security tips for the summer vacation

PandaLabs is continually analyzing the latest Internet trends, and with this in mind, offers the following advice to help safeguard users’ security this summer:

If you take your computer on vacation with you:

  • Before you do anything else, back up all your information. You never know what might happen (accidents, theft of your PC/laptop, etc.).
  • Make sure that you have reliable, up-to-date protection and all necessary security patches are installed.
  • To mitigate the consequences of anyone stealing your computer, encrypt the information on your hard disk, even though this may seem a tiresome or complex task. This prevents anyone accessing your data without the right password.
  • Clean out temporary files, logs, cookies and any password reminders or auto-complete features you use with your browser. This prevents anyone using your computer, without your permission, from automatically accessing your webmail, social networks, bank account or favorite online stores.
  • Don’t connect to unprotected WiFi networks, as you could be hooking up to a network set up by hackers to steal any information that you share across the Internet. Even if you have to pay for it, it is always better to use secure, trusted networks.
  • Take care with email. Phishing attacks and spam are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

If you use a computer other than your own during the holidays:

  • Better still… Don’t! You never know what could be installed on this computer. Using PCs in cyber-cafes, for example, or systems in hotels or airports to access your bank account, etc. could have serious consequences if a Trojan has been installed.
  • If you really have no choice, and you have to enter websites requiring your personal credentials, make sure you change these as soon as possible afterwards to minimize the risk.
  • Avoid making any transactions or purchases online. Remember that any information you enter could well be recovered later by another user.
  • Don’t accept any of the prompts to save personal data offered by many browsers.
  • When you have finished, delete all temporary files, the browser history, cookies, log files and any other information that may have been saved on the computer.
  • If you download anything onto the local computer, remember to delete it before closing, to ensure this information is not available to other users.

And always, on social networks or similar…

  • Never use applications for planning journeys offered by social networks, to ensure that you can’t be located. Don’t accept the geolocation function in Twitter, and don’t use this technology on your cell phone.
  • Don’t proactively share your holiday plans in chatrooms, IRCs, communities, etc.
  • If you do spend time in chatrooms while on holiday, don’t reveal any personal or confidential details to anyone you don’t know.
  • Share these recommendations with your children, who are often more naïve and more open to sharing information across the Internet.
  • If you observe any suspicious behavior on social networks (strangers with too much of an interest in your holiday destination, dates, etc.) contact the police. Prevention is better than cure.

“In addition to the above, it is worth remembering some of the basic security measures at this time of year. Turn off your router when you leave home, beware of typical, holiday-themed phishing, take care with dubious looking websites, as many of them are designed to infect your computer… and, above all, have a great holiday”, concludes Corrons.

More information at PandaLabs Blog.