Think twice about logging onto Wi-Fi while vacationing in popular locales. A new analysis found that travelers at highly trafficked tourist attractions are increasingly at risk from malicious Wi-Fi networks.
The study, which was conducted by mobile threat defense company Skycure, tracked attacks on mobile devices at popular travel destinations over the course of a year. While there’s always a chance that someone’s mobile device could be hacked (regardless of whether they’re traveling or not), Skycure found that fifteen of the world’s most popular tourist sites posed an especially high risk to mobile users. The most common threats involve the capture of private information such as banking logins and passwords or personal communications.
With over 26 million visitors each year, New York City’s Times Square topped the list of the world’s most vulnerable mobile hotspots. Here’s the list in full:
- Times Square, New York City, NY
- Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
- Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallee, France
- Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
- Ocean Park, Hong Kong
- Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, NV
- Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, CA
- Union Station, Washington DC
- Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA
- Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
- Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
- St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
- Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
- Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, FL
- Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA
So does this mean we should all flush our smartphones down the toilet and stay at home in the dark? Certainly not. There are too many amazing places to see (say, Kentucky Bourbon Country or historic Edinburgh) and too many lessons to be learned from traveling the world. By taking some precautions prior to departure, you can document your trip on Instagram and keep your data safe, too.
How to Keep Your Mobile Data Safe
While there’s no such thing as fail-proof mobile security, following these tips will help keep your phone (and other mobile devices) secure anywhere in the world:
- Avoid connecting to free Wi-Fi networks whenever possible. They’re inherently insecure. If a network doesn’t require a password, then assume your data might not be safe.
- Always keep your device updated to the most current operating system. Updates include security protections against any threats that weren’t accounted for in previous versions.
- Sign out of online accounts as soon as you’re done using them. Staying logged in just makes things easier for cyber criminals.
- Only download apps from a trusted source. If you don’t understand the permissions an app is seeking, then don’t install it.
- If your phone starts acting up (for example, if it starts crashing a lot or warning notifications start popping up), then disconnect from the network immediately.
- Visit the Taj Mahal in India or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. According to Skycure, these are the safest tourist attractions for mobile users in (respectively) the world and the U.S.
- Download a mobile security app. While no app can 100 percent guarantee your security, they can certainly help.
Perhaps most importantly? Don’t let this new analysis scare you away from traveling. Exploring the globe has always come with some risks—you might say stealing a tourist’s bank login info is simply the new pick-pocketing—but it has also, always, been worth it.