ByZach Scheepers/Sept. 15, 2022 11:03 am EDT
Most people think hackers only target computers. However, with the advancement of technology, most modern smartphones can rival the capabilities of entry-level laptops. Hackers have now set their sights on airport travelers in particular, as unsecured free public Wi-Fi is an easy gateway into your phone.
Phone hacking, therefore, occurs when a cybercriminal infects your device using malicious software that can steal or compromise personal data. Unfortunately, this includes everything, from photos, and login details, to banking information. Once the hacker is inside, they can transfer any file, authorize financial transactions, or impersonate you on social media platforms.
The airport is an ideal place to institute a hack because you're most vulnerable and unaware. After all, weary travelers aren't going to be monitoring their personal data and private information as closely as they should. By the time you land in another state or country and realize what has occurred, it might be too late.
But all is not lost, there are ways to stay safe and prevent this from happening to you. Here are our top 10 tips to protect your phone from hackers at the airport!
Verify free public wi-fi
Nearly all airports offer free public Wi-Fi to those traveling abroad. While free internet might seem great at first, it does come with an increased risk of hackers infiltrating your phone. The most frequent public Wi-Fi hacking technique is called twin or false hot-spotting. The names intertwine, but the underlining principles of the hack remain the same.
Cyberthieves will start off by setting up a public Wi-Fi connection that looks official. This might be the name of the actual airport itself, or, a recognized restaurant or store that you're familiar with. The false or twin hotspot may be named something along the lines of ATL Free Wi-Fi, or McDonald's 2. Once you've logged into their malicious Wi-Fi connection, the hackers will then start monitoring usernames, passwords, and private data that you type or view while you're connected to the web.
The best way to protect yourself from a public Wi-Fi hack is to verify the connection with a staff member at a nearby establishment. An even better option would be to choose a public Wi-Fi connection that is password protected. You'll often find the exact Wi-Fi name and password on a nearby noticeboard, which would guarantee you've chosen the correct internet connection.
Alternatively, consider paying for a public Wi-Fi connection. Why would you want to pay for Wi-Fi you may ask? Well, the network is going to be much less crowded, and your internet speed will remain lightning fast.
Use a VPN and an antivirus software
While most phones provide some level of built-in security, the best way to keep your data safe is by utilizing a VPN (a virtual private network) and trusted antivirus software. A VPN protects your phone by hiding your IP address and encrypting all the data you exchange with the server. In other words, all of your sensitive data will be transmitted safely, and hackers won't be able to see what you're doing.
A VPN probably sounds like the ultimate airport security solution right? Well, in most cases yes, it will shield the majority of travelers from the scavenging eyes of cyberthieves. With that said, a good VPN isn't free and can cost approximately $10 a month. If your travel is work-related, you may be able to ask the IT department to secure all your internet devices at the cost of the company.
Now, depending on whether you've accidentally downloaded a harmful file from the internet, or, your free VPN has let you down, the next best defense is an antivirusapp. Antivirus software will detect any suspicious activity on your phone and remove it before it accesses your important information.
There are various mobile antivirus apps available, but once again, you should make sure you're working withsoftware from a brand that's well-established and reviewed. A trusted brand such as Norton 360 would be a great example.
Avoid public USB charging stations
In 2019, tech company Asurion published research that showed Americans check their phones 96 times a day — or once every 10 minutes on average. The same research suggested that users aged 18 to 24 years old used their phones twice as much as the national average. If you're a traveler waiting for an airplane at an airport, these numbers will likely skyrocket even further.
Airport officials are aware that battery life is essential while traveling, and the most forward-thinking airport designers have, by now, begun incorporating a selection of charging stations at all heavily-trafficked terminals. These open electrical outputs allow users to recharge their phones quickly but also create an opening for hackers to employ their juice jackingplan. According to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, juice jacking is executed when a criminal creates a fake USB charging station at an airport with the intention to load malware onto an unsuspecting victim's phone.
While you may think your phone is charging, the cyberthief is actually stealing information from your phone or infecting your device in the hopes of later spying on your private usernames and passwords. Avoid plugging your USB cord into a public USB port on one end and your phone on the other.
Instead, using your own charger in a standard AC power outlet bypasses the juice jacking issue altogether.You could also use your own USB power bank.International flights occasionally have AC power ports onboard, but you'll still need your own charging plug, and the ports are never really guaranteed to function properly — on the majority of the flights we've taken in the last half-decade, anyway.
Avoid sensitive websites
According to Statista, 263 million Americans regularly shop online as of 2022 — that's nearly 80% of the population. If you're an avid shopper, chances are you'll want to pass time at the airport by searching for potential deals. Having said that, if you're on free public Wi-Fi, we strongly advise against this.
As previously discussed above, free public Wi-Fi is an easy way for hackers to get access to the information stored on your phone. If you have chosen to connect to the free public Wi-Fi anyway, you should avoid sensitive websites. These include websites that ask for banking information in order to facilitate financial transactions, shopping sites, social networks, and basically any other website that requires login info.
Sensitive websites also expand to those that use personal data. Any website that requests your name, address, or social security number can put you at risk of identity theft. Hackers can use this information to create fake social media profiles or answer security questions to attain passwords to services you might not even visit during your trip.
Should the situation arise that you're already automatically logged into a sensitive website, it's important that you log out immediately and disconnect from the web. Once you've done that, reconnect to a secure web connection (mobile internet or private Wi-Fi) and set a new password for yourself as fast as possible.
Use Two-factor authentication
What happens if a hacker already has access to your phone, username, and password? Although this might seem like the end of the world, there is another security measure in place that can provide a safety net to your compromised device. Enter Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
2FA will force you to provide an extra piece of information once you have logged into your chosen account. 2FA can be enabled on most mobile applications within the Security and Account Access setting. There are three types of 2FA categories, but they all provide the same function, ensuring that the person accessing the account, is really the account owner.
Whether you enable 2FA via a social media account, Google, or a banking institution, you'll likely come across one of the three available categories. This will be something you know, something you have, and something you are.Something you know might be an answer to a secret question. Something you have could be a message sent to your phone or an alternative email address. Something you are includes biometrics elements like your fingerprint or photo ID.
A 2FA that includes a secret answer or a fingerprint scan is likely your best option when phone security is your top priority at the airport. An SMS prompt or email 2FA might be accessible to hackers depending on the extent of control they have over your phone. Nevertheless, 2FA is easy to enable, and a great solution to ward off cybercriminals.
Be careful of suspicious emails or messages
Philip Steury Photography/Shutterstock
Generally, your email service should catch most spam or phishing emails and send them to your spam folder. These emails are often easy to spot — for example, a stranger telling you that you've won the national lottery, or an executor informing you that you're entitled to an amazing inheritance. Unfortunately for weary travelers, airport hackers are becoming better at their game.
If an airport hacker has somehow found your email address or phone number while you're at the airport they can use it to their advantage. Spam or phishing emails at the airport can be set up professionally, include the airline logo, and have a legitimate-looking email address to match. They'll often request you to log in to confirm an action or verify your flight booking by clicking a link.
With an unfortunate combination of jet lag and fatigue, what are the chances you'd identify a fake email from the exact airline you're about to fly on? Probably slim to none, and that's how fast an airport hacker can get you to click a malicious link. Nevertheless, there are some safeguards you can follow to protect yourself.
Avoid opening suspicious emails, includingemails or messages that have a weird title, emoji, or font.It's always important to inspect the email addresses of incoming communications, especially when you're out and about.Close inspection of an email address from a malicious entity often reveals a missing letter, a misspelled word, an extra number — anything even the slightest bit strange or suspicious-looking.
If you discover that a malicious or otherwise misleading email has reached your standard inbox (and has not been stopped by your email service's automatic safeguards), be sure to flag the email as "spam."This will give your email service's system a better idea of what to watch for and block in the future.
Turn your notifications on
Most apps have a Security Notification feature that you can enable. This feature will let you know if there have been any unusual log-ins from new devices. If a hacker has stolen your login details, you can then be notified if your account has been compromised.
These security notifications also extend to banking services and credit cards. Similar to an app, you can enable a notification to inform you when any amount of money enters or exits your account. We'd also suggest pairing this strategy with a Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) to avoid any possible form of financial transaction fraud.
It's also important to note that you should be careful when granting app permissions. Once you have allowed the security notification setting, the app may ask for your phone number, location, contacts, or the ability to use your gallery. Only allow what you believe is necessary, as it could become a privacy issue later on if a hacker gains access to the app.
Airports are loud, so we would also advise making all security notifications vibrate on your phone. This way, you won't miss anything and you'll be able to take action immediately. On top of that, it's probably a good idea to know how to cancel or freeze your credit card should the situation arise.
Use secure websites only
Websites that utilize an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) are becoming an industry norm. SSL is a standard security technology that secures the information that is shared between your phone's browser, and, the website you are interacting with. If a hacker gains access to your phone, SSL encrypts the information sent/received by you and the website, making it unreadable to prying eyes.
According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are two ways to know if the website you're about to visit is considered secure: HTTPS and a padlock icon. Look at the website's URL and check for the letter S. A secure website URL will start with HTTPS, with an emphasis on the letter S as this indicates that the website is using an SSL certificate. You may find website URLs that start with HTTP, without the S– in general, these are no longerregarded as secure.
Look for a padlock next to the URL. The lock symbol is found on the top left of your phone's browser, usually in the same line as your URL. The padlock confirms that the website is secure and the information is encrypted.
With the above considered, you should still be wary when visiting any kind of website at the airport. A secure website that uses an SSL can still technically give away your private info if your device is compromised bykeylogger malware.That's where your trusty antivirus software can come in and ensure your system is clean and ready to browse the web.
Create a personal hotspot
Throughout the article, we have outlined the dangers and risks associated with free public Wi-Fi. A solution to safe and secure internet can therefore come in the form of a portable 4G router. With the ability to create your own hotspot, you can then access your own internet and be confident the network isn't at risk to a hacker — provided you have created a complex password of course.
Alternatively, if you are traveling with a friend, you can also ask them to make their own phone a mobile hotspot for you. We'd advise asking them if they have an unlimited data plan, just in case you end up running up their phone bill. If everything is A-OK, you can follow these steps on how to create a hotspot for Android or Apple products:
For Android Phone Connections:
- On your friend's phone, swipe down from the home screen and tap Hotspot.
- On your own phone, open Wi-Fi Options, and select your friend's Hotspot Name.
- Enter your friend's Hotspot password, and then tap Connect.
For Apple Phone Connections:
- On your friend's phone, go to Settings, Mobile Data, Personal Hotspot, and activate.
- On your own phone, go to Settings, Wi-Fi, and look for your friend's Hotspot name.
- Select the Wi-Fi network, and enter the password.
Download and update apps from a trusted platform
Most users who turn off their phone's auto-update feature do it to preserve space, or because they simply prefer the current version of their app or operating system. While updates to apps and operating systems can be a fuss, they often include new security features to protect users from hackers. This is especially important for apps that deal with money or personal information.
Similar to a phishing email, hackers can also send you a fake notification that says your app needs to be updated. If you've ever visited an unsecured website, you've probably come across a fake WhatsApp or Messenger update pop-up. Once you tap the screen prompt in your internet browser, malware can then be downloaded onto your phone.
The only secure way to update your apps is through the platform where you downloaded the app in the first place.Those using Android should visit the Google Play Store with some exceptions, while iPhone should always update apps using the Apple App Store.In terms of apps that are not found on the official Google or Apple app stores, we'd strongly recommend using your antivirus software. Scan the app and make sure it's safe before you start inputting your private information.
How can I tell if my phone has been hacked?
The most common warning signs you can look out for when your phone has been hacked include constant pop-ups, higher-than-usual data usage, reduced system performance, random texts, random calls, and the appearance of apps on your device that you don't remember downloading in the first place.
If your phone has suddenly started increasing its data usage, a hacker may be accessing your information while you're away. Furthermore, try checking your data usage settings on your Android or iOS device (Settings, Cellular, scroll to check the list) to discover the exact apps that may be compromised. Reduced system performance cancome in the form of apps not responding properly, or your overall system slowing down. If your phone's battery seems to be draining at a high rate, even while it's sitting idle in your pocket, something may be amiss.
Take a scroll through your messages or call log, and look for any texts or calls that you do not recognize. This includes messages sent via social media apps, too. Hackers won't always stop with you. If they have the opportunity to use your device to pull others into their web of deceit, they'll do so.
How do I secure my phone?
If you've been the unfortunate victim of a phone hack at the airport, there may still be time to save your personal information and prevent further damage. To secure a compromised smartphone, you'll want to go ahead and reset the whole thing. A clean factory reset will return your phone to its original state. Just make sure you create a backup of all your photos, contacts, and important data.
If you're not worried enough to fully reboot, start by deleting any newly installed apps you don't recognize. Additionally, try not to open them, as this could be a trap that activates a malware attack.
In all cases — even if you find yourself just a tiny bit suspicious of malicious behavior on your phone, you should change your passwords. Make certain your data connection is secure (with a non-public option, or mobile data), and reset your passwords. If a hacker gained access to your device in any way, chances are good that theyautomatically copied any and all of your passwords and login information. Unless you used a password manager, of course.
- Make sure your security software is up-to-date. Devices' operating systems and Internet-connected software (like email programs, web browsers, and music players) should be updated regularly. ...
- Install antivirus and antimalware software. ...
- Disable connections when you aren't using them.
It's no secret: connecting to free WiFi is super dangerous. It takes an inexperienced hacker just minutes to access your sensitive data and steal information like credit cards or bank details. This is because free WiFi—like you'd find at airports or coffee shops—is unencrypted.What can I put on my phone to protect it from hackers? ›
Use a VPN and Antivirus. Android and iOS provide a decent level of built-in security, but you can only get maximum protection against hackers by pairing a VPN with an antivirus. While a VPN and antivirus both offer extensive security on their own, having both installed on your phone will provide the best results.What are 3 ways you can ensure your safety if you get hacked? ›
- Don't access personal or financial data with public Wi-Fi. ...
- Turn off anything you don't need. ...
- Be skeptical about links and attachments.
Some common reasons for hacking include basic bragging rights, curiosity, revenge, boredom, challenge, theft for financial gain, sabotage, vandalism, corporate espionage, blackmail, and extortion. Hackers are known to regularly cite these reasons to explain their behavior.Can your phone be hacked by opening a text message? ›
Even before you open a message, the phone automatically processes incoming media files -- including pictures, audio or video. That means a malware-laden file can start infecting the phone as soon as it's received, according Zimperium, a cybersecurity company that specializes in mobile devices.Is it safe to use VPN in airport? ›
Use a VPN. Many people are worried that dealing with a virtual private network is complicated and difficult, but running VPN software on your laptop is one of the most effective ways to ensure your security when on a WiFi network, whether at the airport or elsewhere.Is it safe to use credit card on airport Wi-Fi? ›
It's safe to pay bills online with Wi-Fi as long as you use a secure Wi-Fi network that uses the latest encryption technology and is protected by a strong password. Never pay your bills from public Wi-Fi such as the Wi-Fi you can access from an airport, a coffee shop, or hotel.How do I secure my Wi-Fi when traveling? ›
Buy a data plan or use a VPN.
You can also consider purchasing a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN is essentially a private connection between your device and the websites you visit. It adds an extra layer of security that encrypts your data.
- Your phone loses charge quickly. Malware and fraudulent apps sometimes use malicious code that tends to drain a lot of power.
- Your phone runs abnormally slowly. ...
- You notice strange activity on your other online accounts. ...
- You notice unfamiliar calls or texts in your logs.
The short answer is no, your phone cannot be hacked while it's turned off. Phone hacking, even remotely, only works if the device being targeted is on.Can hackers get your phone camera? ›
All sorts of apps can request permission to access the camera, microphone, and other features, such as location information, on your phone or computer. Using the steps below, it's easy to see which apps have requested permission and revoke permissions that you've granted in the past.What is the best software to block hackers? ›
- Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.
- Reason Core Security.
- Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit.
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.
- Trojan Remover.
- McAfee Security Scan Plus.
Unfortunately, many people often make hackers' jobs easy for them. Hackers can easily plant viruses on computers to automatically steal information, or use phishing to con you into handing over your information willingly.What happens when you get hacked? ›
This can be really serious, hackers can use your identity details to open bank accounts, get credit cards, order products in your name, take over existing accounts and take out mobile phone contracts. Hackers could even get genuine documents such as passports and driving licenses in your name once they have stolen your ...What hackers want most? ›
While passport information sells for the most amount of money, Social Security numbers are the most valuable to hackers, as these can be used for tax fraud, opening credit accounts, and other malicious activities.
- Healthcare. Over 90% of hospitals have been the victims of cyberattacks (most notably, ransomware) within the past three years. ...
- Government. ...
- Non-Profit. ...
- Finance and Insurance.
- Browser hijacks.
- Denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
- Turn off the cellular and Wi-Fi radios on your phone. The easiest way to accomplish this task is to turn on the “Airplane Mode” feature. ...
- Disable your GPS radio. ...
- Shut the phone down completely and remove the battery.
Regardless of whether you use an iPhone or an Android smartphone, it is possible for someone to install spyware onto your phone that secretly tracks and reports on your activity. It's even possible for someone to monitor your cell phone's activity without ever even touching it.
The truth is that someone can spy on your phone without physically touching it. People can remotely install spying software and track your phone without your knowledge.What will a VPN not protect you from? ›
A VPN helps you stay invisible and behind the scenes, but it doesn't give you immunity against online risks like malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, or even computer viruses. That's where your antivirus software comes in.What precautions should you take before connecting to an airport public WiFi network? ›
- Don't access your personal or financial information. ...
- Log in or send personal information only to websites you know are fully encrypted. ...
- Don't stay permanently signed in to accounts. ...
- Don't use the same password on different websites. ...
- Pay attention to warnings.
If you're looking for a good country to access a VPN through, one that combines limited obstacles to access and content, and strong protection for user rights, then Iceland, Estonia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom are some of the best.Is it safe to pay bill by phone? ›
Credit card transactions that you make over the phone have the same protection as those you make online or in person at a store. The law limits cardholders' liability to $50 under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) for any unauthorized transactions on your account so you will want to make sure you report them.Can your credit card number can be stolen by using public WiFi networks? ›
It can be easy for hackers to steal your credit card information when you're using public Wi-Fi. Cybercriminals might set up a Man in the Middle attack. In this type of attack, thieves intercept the data flowing from your laptop or smartphone before it gets to a bank, store, or other destination.Should I turn off Wi-Fi when traveling? ›
Turn Off File Sharing and Your Wi-Fi Feature When Not in Use
Before you leave on your trip, ensure that this feature has been disabled. Along the same lines, be sure your Wi-Fi feature is turned off. Only turn it on when you need to use it. If it's on all the time, other devices can see you.
Cellular networks are more secure than public Wi-Fi due to the use of encryption, which is why when accessing private information, using your mobile device over a cellular connection is a better choice.Is it safe to use Wi-Fi abroad? ›
Free public WiFi connections, like the type you get in hotels, are not secure and can easily be hacked. So logging on to sites that hold your sensitive information puts you at risk. If you're just surfing the web or checking the latest news, then the chances of hackers stealing your personal details are slim.Should I change my phone number if I have been hacked? ›
If you've experienced identity theft, you should probably change your phone number. It's a massive inconvenience, but the pros will outweigh the cons. Let's understand why. Most people upgrade their smartphone every two years — especially if they're on a contract plan.
- Clear your cache and downloads. Open Settings, go to Apps & notifications, and select Chrome. ...
- Restart your Android device in safe mode. ...
- Find and remove malicious apps. ...
- Activate Google Play Protect. ...
- Install anti-malware software.
If you want to make sure your smartphone and other devices are secure from cyberattacks, you may have asked yourself, “Does airplane mode prevent hacking?” While not a feasible solution to use all the time, airplane mode can temporarily block hackers while your device is not connected to WiFi or cellular networks.Can hackers get into your phone by calling you? ›
If you are receiving phantom calls frequently, then you need to go to the authorities. It is probably a hacker trying to get access to your mobile. In a word, it is barely impossible for someone to hack into your phone by calling you. Even if they manage to do it, they won't get any important data.Should Bluetooth be on or off? ›
The frequency with which Bluetooth is used means most Android smartphone owners keep it turned on at all times. Leaving Bluetooth enabled on your smartphone may present a security risk, however, potentially opening up your device to nefarious actors who might install malware that turns it into a surveillance device.Should I cover the camera on my phone? ›
As an IT security professional I highly recommend physically covering your digital cameras when not in use. Your phone is highly hackable! I can send you a text message and be in your camera with a misplaced click in just a few seconds.Can hackers see your screen? ›
Hackers can gain access to your computer monitor — a cybersecurity expert shows us how easy it is.How do you know if a hacker is watching you? ›
- Check if the camera indicator light is on. ...
- Check browser extensions. ...
- Check known and unknown applications. ...
- See if your webcam process is running. ...
- Try running the webcam. ...
- Look for audio and video recordings. ...
- Run a malware scan. ...
- Enable firewall.
Turn on 2-step Verification
- Security keys (Most secure verification step)
- Google Prompts (More secure than text message codes)
- Google Authenticator Application (Receive codes without Internet or mobile data)
Unfortunately, many people often make hackers' jobs easy for them. Hackers can easily plant viruses on computers to automatically steal information, or use phishing to con you into handing over your information willingly.Does VPN protect from hackers? ›
How does a VPN prevent hacking? By redirecting your internet traffic to disguise your IP address, it makes it impossible to track you. And by encrypting the information you send across the internet; it stops anyone who wants to intercept your information from being able to read it. That includes your ISP.
- Create strong passwords. ...
- Don't overshare on social media. ...
- Use free Wi-Fi with caution. ...
- Watch out for links and attachments. ...
- Check to see if the site is secure. ...
- Consider additional protection.
What Makes a Password Strong? The key aspects of a strong password are length (the longer the better); a mix of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols, no ties to your personal information, and no dictionary words.Can you get hacked by watching a YouTube video? ›
You are unlikely to get infected by watching videos but there are real dangers nonetheless. Cybercriminals can trick you into clicking a link that will cause malware to be installed on your devices.Can someone hack you through YouTube? ›
Hackers often target YouTube accounts by using phishing attacks to try and obtain profile passwords. They can then get into an account and view bank data associated with a channel or business. Preventing a hacked YouTube account only takes a few extra security measures.Can hackers see my screen? ›
Hackers can gain access to your computer monitor — a cybersecurity expert shows us how easy it is.What do most hackers use? ›
It is the most widely used ethical hacking OS. It is a Debian-based Linux - based operating system developed for penetration testing and digital forensics. It is financed and maintained by Offensive Security Ltd. The greatest and most widely used operating system for hackers is Kali Linux.
Skilled hackers can take over a hacked smartphone and do everything from making overseas phone calls, sending texts, and using your phone's browser to shop on the Internet. Since they're not paying your smartphone bill, they don't care about exceeding your data limits.Can you be tracked if you use VPN? ›
If you're using a trustworthy VPN service, your browsing activities become illegible to snoopers. However, this doesn't mean a VPN user is entirely untraceable online. Internet service providers (ISPs), websites, and even governments can determine whether you're using a VPN.What VPN do hackers use? ›
NordVPN is a great VPN for hackers, with a large server network comprising more than 5,000 RAM-only servers in 60 countries.Should you leave your VPN on all the time? ›
VPN can be kept on all the time
To sum it up, keeping your VPN on all the time is not only perfectly safe but actually recommended. It can keep your online identity anonymous, protect you from attacks associated with unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and help you bypass various artificial restrictions.
- Immediately establish a P.O. Box or CMRA (commercial mail-receiving agency) and NEVER receive mail or packages at home. ...
- Remove your home address from any of your company filings with the State and DO NOT serve as your own Registered Agent sharing your home/street address.
Using a whole-disk encryption program is the best safeguard against unauthorized access of data on your laptop or notebook computer. Such applications use strong encryption methods that protect your device's hard drive while allowing you easy access to your data.What are the methods of data protection? ›
- DATA ENCRYPTION. ...
- DATA BACKUP TO THE CLOUD. ...
- PASSWORD PROTECTION. ...
- IDENTITY AND ACCESS MANAGEMENT (IAM) ...
- INTRUSION DETECTION AND PREVENTION SOFTWARE.