Social media addiction of travelling Brits placing their security at risk

British travellers who post on social media during their travels put the security of their homes at risk, notes a recent McAfee report.

Seven out of ten travellers who post on social media do not care if people outside of their friends and family see their pictures and locations.

Recently, a retired teacher suffered a major embarrassment when she found out that cyber-criminals had used her social media information to con her out of more than £5,000. The cyber-criminals in question communicated with her disguised as an ex-colleague and friend and demanded money from her.

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She ended up sending more than £5,000 to her supposedly distressed friend in two installments before realising that she had been conned. "When I didn’t hear back from her the next day I gave her a call. To my complete horror, she knew nothing about this. These criminals manipulated me into believing she was stuck in a distressing situation. I am convinced they used social media to work out how close we were and identify that our connection was through teaching," she said.

"Social media profiles offer a huge amount of information that cybercriminals can use to personalise their attacks when impersonating a friend or family member over email," noted the McAfee report.

The report adds that as many as 34% of Brits post about their travels and locations on social media when they are away from home. As many as 70% of such travellers do not care if people outside of their friends and family see their pictures and locations.

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However, by posting about their travels on social media, such travellers leave a virtual open door to their home. McAfee observed that as many as one in five of all travellers tag their holiday locations on social media without worrying about the security risks to their homes and belongings.

"Famous attacks on Wonga and Three, for example, led to hundreds of thousands of people’s personal information being stolen. This means Brits’ addresses are readily available within cybercriminal circles. It doesn’t take much for criminals to join the dots and work out which premises are empty,” says Nick Viney, Vice President of Consumer at McAfee.

During their travels, 32% Brits received phishing e-mails from cyber-criminals masquerading as friends and 25% of them received fraudulent e-mails asking for money or to click on malicious links.

"Cybercriminals can use the information available on social media to build convincing stories as to why friends and family members are asking for money. It’s always a good idea to reach out to the friend in question via a different method of communication to ensure it’s a legitimate request,” Viney added.

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McAfee is now asking people not to post on social media or tag their locations when they're travelling as the same opens a virtual door to their homes. Travellers should also double-check if requests from friends and colleagues are legitimate and should use only secured Wi-Fi networks to connect with friends and family. The report revealed that 55% of travelers can't tell if a connection is secure and 54% said they would use an unsecure connection rather than go without.

However, there's a bright spot. While 79% of travellers logged into social media last year, only 58% plan to connect to the internet during their travels this year. Staying away from the internet during the holidays isn't a very easy proposition, and while the thought of a digital detox made 42% of people anxious last year, the number of such people has come down to 35% this year.