(BPT) - The period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is among the busiest travel times of the year. In 2014, more than 98 million traveled over the holiday period, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. These busy, unassuming travelers could be a hacker's ideal target, as more than half of respondents in a 2015 The Travelers Companies survey say they rarely take precautions, like changing online banking or financial account passwords regularly.
'Cybercrime can be at an all-time high during the holiday season, especially as busy consumers move from place to place and don't take the same precautions with their portable devices that they might normally have at home,' says Dr. Kenneth L. Williams, Ph.D., cyber expert and professor in the College of Engineering & Information Sciences at DeVry University. 'Ill-informed travelers are a hacker's ideal target, so travelers must be accountable for their own protection.'
With travel booking on mobile devices becoming increasingly popular, and travelers' near-constant smart phone use on the road, the threat continues to rise. Currently, more than 16 million mobile devices in circulation are infected with some form of malware, a 25 percent increase over the past two years, according to telecoms infrastructure firm Alcatel-Lucent. This high number of malware is often is due to a gap in knowledge on how consumers can to protect themselves from a cyber criminal's attack.
Dr. Williams offers these tips for travelers to protect themselves from cybercrime this holiday season:
Use personal hotspots. Do not use public Wi-Fi networks as these can be a landmine for cyber hackers. Instead, opt to use your phone or tablet's personal hotspot.
Be mindful on public networks. Don't share credit card information over hotel networks, like on-demand menus or hotel services, since these systems are easy for hackers to access.
Shutdown wireless services you aren't using. Shut down wireless services, like Bluetooth, if you do not need them.
Don't leave your devices unattended. Protect your devices like cash when you're in public places like hotels and resorts; thieves and hackers always go where the money is.
Charge with Caution. While convenient, avoid charging your mobile devices from a computer or charging station you do not control, like at an airport terminal.
'In today's economy, no one is safe in any irregular circumstance when it comes to their cyber activity,' says Dr. Williams. 'New and seasoned travelers alike need to take a step back and notice the new opportunities cyber criminals now have to steal their data.'
To avoid being a statistic as one of the 4,000 cyber-attacks that happen each day, holiday travels must take the right precautions to protect their personal data this holiday season.