Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Be wary of free Wi-Fi, text messages while on vacation

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MONTREAL -- Travellers should be wary of cyber threats on vacation as they access free wireless networks with their smartphones, tablets or laptops, says software security company Symantec Corp.

Canadians travelling for March break and into the summer season shouldn't be doing things like pulling up their bank accounts on Wi-Fi networks, said Symantec Canada's Lynn Hargrove.

"What people don't realize is that there's no security on those Wi-Fi networks for the most part," she said.

"It's a great way to keep in touch while you're on vacation, but there are some inherent risks that come with it that people just aren't thinking about."

Symantec has found that two in 10 Canadians pull up their bank accounts on free Wi-Fi networks in Canada.

Young men are most at risk for cybercrime because they are "fearless" and access risky Internet sites, said Hargrove, director of consumer solutions, from Toronto.

According to Symantec's 2012 Norton Cybercrime report, travellers are often victimized through their mobile devices while abroad, often by text messages.

"We're seeing a lot of fraudulent texts asking you to click on a link or go and dial a number to retrieve a voice mail," Hargrove said.

And the wealth of information stored on a smartphone -- pictures, texts, emails, contact lists, work documents, banking information -- can be valuable to cyber criminals if stolen or lost, Hargrove said.

"What people aren't realizing is that in many cases they have more information on that device than they have on their home PC."

Smartphone users should at a minimum have a password to access their device, Hargrove said, and there's also security software available for smartphones.

The 2012 Norton Cybercrime report found that 92 per cent of survey respondents in Russia said they had been victims of cybercrime.

For Canadians travelling to Mexico or Brazil, each country has a rate of 75 per cent of its online citizens being past victims of cybercrime, Hargrove said.

In less developed countries with a lot of free Wi-Fi networks there also tends to be a lot of cybercrime, she added. The rate of cybercrime in France is 55 per cent and it's 70 per cent in Canada, according to the report, which surveyed 13,018 online adults last July in 24 countries including Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Poland Singapore, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2013 A16

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