FBI Issues Internet Security for Travelers and More


If you are a frequent traveler who connects to the internet through hotel networks, you should be on the lookout for malicious software, according to a recent warning issued by the FBI.

The FBI’s warning came through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NWC3) that was created to accept complaints of internet crime detected by online users.  The warning focused on an increasing trend of travelers worldwide being targeted by malicious software while accessing internet connections in hotels.

Although no specific hotels or software instances were identified in the warning, it did offer a general advisory containing the following statement: “Recent analysis from the FBI and other government agencies demonstrates that malicious actors are targeting travelers abroad through pop-up windows while they are establishing an Internet connection in their hotel rooms.”

The pop-up windows displayed while connecting to the internet often asked users to update a popular software product.  The actual software product was not named, but it is reportedly one that is known to require frequent updates.  Once the user accepted the update installation request, legitimate updating would not occur.  Instead, the user unknowingly accepted the installation of malicious software on their computer.

The FBI offered the following advice for travelers abroad in response to the recent attacks associated with hotel internet connections:

• Update all of your software right before traveling to ensure that it is in its most up to date state.
• When updating abroad, only do so directly from a software vendor’s official website.
• Before updating, always check the update’s author or digital certificate to see that it matches with the official software vendor.
• Exercise caution before updating any software, whether at home or abroad.

Although the latest advisory regarding network usage in hotels is alarming for travelers, it was just one of several released by the FBI and IC3 in recent weeks that cover a wide variety of internet schemes being employed by cybercriminals.

The recent passing of Tax Day on April 17 in the United States offered cybercriminals the perfect opportunity to produce financial gains through fraudulent activity.  The IC3 noted several complaints from victims who claimed their names and social security numbers were used to submit fraudulent tax returns to the IRS to produce large refunds.

Continuing with the tax day theme, the IC3 noted an increase in spam emails distributed with the hopes of catching unsuspecting victims in the form of accountants.  Many of the emails carried the title of “Termination of your CPA license” and were sent from addresses similar to support@aicpa.org.  The emails claimed to be from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and stated that a complaint was filed against the recipients for allegedly filing false tax returns.  Each email contained a link to the complaint, which was actually a front for malware.  A sense of urgency was created by threatening recipients with the termination of their accountant licenses should they fail to respond in a timely manner.

Another online con for which the IC3 has received many complaints deals with phony ads offering income to users if they advertise company logos on their personal vehicles.  While legitimate offers for such advertising agreements do exist, the ones detailed in complaints to the IC3 left victims with financial losses instead of gains.

The online ads offered weekly income of approximately $400 to $600 to anyone willing to drive around with a vinyl decal or auto wrap on their vehicle.  The scammers enticed victims by claiming the advertisements were for such reputable brand names as Coca Cola, Heineken, Monster Energy drink, and Red Bull, just to name a few.  Once interested parties supplied their contact and vehicle data, they were sent a check or money order as a form of payment that exceeded the originally promised amount.  Victims were told to cash the payment and wire the excess to a third party posing as the advertising company’s graphic designer.  Once the original checks or money orders were deemed to be counterfeit, the victims were held responsible for any losses.

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