How to safeguard your ‘digital’ life on a vacation
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How to safeguard your ‘digital’ life on a vacation

How to safeguard your ‘digital’ life on a vacation

With the increasing dependence on technology, the tourism industry is also becoming vulnerable to cyberthreats and therefore needs to prioritise security measures

Divsha Bhat

Tourism is an industry that has been growing exponentially in recent years, with more than 900 million tourists travelled internationally in 2022, according to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). However, with the increasing dependence on technology, the tourism industry is also becoming vulnerable to cyberthreats. The industry, therefore, needs to prioritise cybersecurity measures to safeguard customers’ personal and financial information and maintain their trust.

Transforming travel experience

One of the ways in which technology has transformed the travel industry is through the use of online booking platforms and mobile applications. These tools have made it easier for travellers to book flights, accommodation and activities from anywhere in the world. Tourists provide their sensitive information on booking platforms, including credit card details and passport information, which can be attractive targets for cybercriminals.

However, this convenience comes with a risk. Hackers can easily access personal and financial information stored on these platforms and use it for fraudulent purposes.

Cybercriminals can use various tactics, including phishing and malware, to infiltrate hotel and travel companies’ databases including sensitive details, and such information can be sold on the dark web, resulting in identity theft and financial fraud.

For instance, last year, the internal systems of the online travel platform, Cleartrip suffered due to a breach. The Flipkart-owned platform confirmed in an email there was a security anomaly that entailed illegal and unauthorised access to a part of Cleartrip’s internal systems. It was reported that the hackers were selling the data on a private, invite-only forum on the dark web.

Another area where technology has impacted travel is in the use of biometric identification. Many airports and border control agencies now use facial recognition, fingerprint scans, and other biometric technologies to verify the identity of travellers. While this has streamlined the check-in process, it also raises concerns about privacy and security.

Travellers should be aware of the information that is collected and stored by these systems and how it may be used. They should also be cautious when sharing personal information, especially with third-party service providers or online travel agencies.

Finally, technology has also made it possible for travellers to stay connected while on the go. From smartphones to smartwatches, there are now numerous devices that can keep travellers connected to the internet and to each other. However, this connectivity can also make them vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Research conducted by cybersecurity company NordVPN revealed that one in four travellers have been hacked while using public wi-fi on their travels abroad. The majority of those attacks occurred while people were in transit at airports, bus and train stations. It is important for travellers to be aware of the risks associated with using public wi-fi networks. They should also keep their devices updated with the latest security patches and avoid downloading applications or opening links from untrusted sources.

Shielding your data

Meanwhile, to prevent data breaches, the tourism industry needs to implement robust security measures. This includes using encryption to protect sensitive information, conducting regular security audits and implementing two-factor authentication. The industry should develop contingency plans and protocols to address cyber incidents effectively. They should also have backup systems in place to ensure business continuity in the event of an attack.

Furthermore, to combat online booking fraud, the tourism industry must educate tourists on how to spot fake websites and phishing emails. Tourists should also be advised to book through trusted websites and travel agents to avoid falling victim to fraudulent activity. Tourists themselves must also take precautions to safeguard their personal and financial information. This includes using strong passwords, avoiding public wi-fi networks, and being cautious when sharing personal information online.

Additionally, hotels and travel companies need to educate their staff and customers on cybersecurity risks and how to prevent them. Staff should be trained on cybersecurity best practices, including password hygiene and customer data handling. Clients should also be advised to avoid public wi-fi networks, use secure passwords and keep their devices updated with the latest security patches.

Finally, it is essential for the travel and tourism industry to work together with government agencies and cybersecurity experts to create a robust cybersecurity framework. This includes developing guidelines and regulations that ensure the security and privacy of customer data and promoting cybersecurity best practices among businesses and tourists alike.

Read: Here’s how Israel is changing the way we travel

Also read: How limiting our online information can safeguard our lives

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