Sunday, August 24, 2014

Laptop Larceny, Tablet Travails and Cell Phone Creeps

This article may seem like a departure from the norm but you will quickly see that it is very appropriate since we have gone nation wide with our camps. We are at risk of our media devices being hacked by unscrupulous miscreants.

We, at Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp, are traveling cross-country frequently going to camps and working with hospitals and sponsors in other states plus the MegaBrain exhibits we organize and attend throughout the country. As we go, we sometimes must stay in motels and use our laptops, tablets and cell phones for business as well as personal communication. However, what I'm addressing is appropriate for anyone who travels and stays in hotels and motels and other public places, including restaurants and airports. I will refer to laptops, tablets and cell phones as media devices in this article.  I have taken some of this information from a newspaper article called Cyber Speak, hosted by Kim Komando, This is an extremely useful web site for computer, tablet and cell phone usage with tons of useful information, utilities, apps and programs for these devices. 

When we stay overnight in motels during our travels to camp, we like to use our media devices for many reasons. We use them to plot the next days route, keep track of weather, pass time with games, read novels, and keep in touch with family and friends. This includes searching web sites, sending emails and using FaceBook or Linkedin. Even Nooks and Kindles are vulnerable if  used to access the internet.

The biggest danger of using our media devices on public Wi-Fi is hackers on the same network. I'm talking about motel/hotel Wi-Fi specifically but this also applies to restaurants and coffee houses and any place where you use a public Wi-Fi network.  Hackers can be in their motel rooms, the motel lobby, the motel bar, and even in the motel parking lot. Sometimes they can even connect from another nearby building if it is within range of the Wi-Fi router you are using. I should also add here that you are even vulnerable at home if you don't password protect your personal Wi-Fi router.

Hackers can capture every single thing you do on the internet. There many internet vulnerabilities even in your own home not just public Wi-Fi ones that we must be careful about but in this article I'm addressing only internet usage over a public Wi-Fi router. Also, this does not pertain to cell phone usage over cell phone towers. There are other issues calling on cell phones but I'm not knowledgeable enough about that to address those issues. From what I understand you're pretty safe using cell phone calls to do really sensitive tasks like banking as long as you're not using their internet feature.  Today's cell phones can use the internet through 3G or 4G connections. 

Hackers are getting more and more proficient at hacking media devices. Yes, even cell phones that use a public Wi-Fi connection. They can easily read your passwords, emails, and more as you send and receive information over the internet. Some hackers even set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots with names like "Hotel Wi-Fi" or some name permutation of the place where you are staying. If you connect to it, hackers not only see all your traffic, they can send you to malicious websites that steal your information right off your device.  


As I said, use cellular for any really sensitive tasks like banking. And, for tablets and cell phones, be sure to use your bank's app as well, because that will be more secure. For laptops, type in the bank's web address yourself. Do not click on any link you didn't create yourself or type in your user ID and password on any popup window you didn't initiate yourself. 

Make sure you absolutely trust any emails you get that contain links you are asked to click on, especially if they don't tell you anything about the link or use strange verbiage. Do not trust just the sender's name. I have received emails where the sender name was the name of someone I knew but when I looked at the actual email address it was not theirs. This has happened to me more than once and you should learn how to recognize this ruse. All browsers give you a way to display the actual sender email address. If you don't see it, delete the email immediately. If you get a popup window you didn't ask for, close it out by clicking the small x at the top right of the box. Don't click any buttons in that popup window no matter how they are labeled. Only click the little x at the top right of the popup window. And sometimes that's not even good enough. You are probably better off not doing anything and re-booting your computer. If it pops up again either ignore it or shut down until you can get professional help.

Kim also suggests using an encryption app like Avast! SecureLine VPN or HotSpot Shield VPN to encrypt your traffic. This makes it almost impossible for anyone to snoop what you are sending. These are free apps and can be found on her site. 

I hope I didn't frighten you, but instead made you more cautious. Many times it's hard for me to understand the motives behind hacker attempts. Mostly it's financial gain they're looking for but a lot of it is just plain malicious. I wouldn't be surprised if this particular article draws more spam than most.  


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