Foreign Travel Malware Threat Alert: Watch out for hotel Internet connections

We received a worrying notice today from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), The headline reads: "Malware Installed on Travelers' Laptops Through Software Updates on Hotel Internet Connections." We felt that the warning which followed the headline was serious enough to relay it promptly to our readers in its entirety:

Recent analysis from the FBI and other government agencies demonstrates that malicious actors are targeting travelers abroad through pop-up windows while establishing an Internet connection in their hotel rooms.

Recently, there have been instances of travelers' laptops being infected with malicious software while using hotel Internet connections. In these instances, the traveler was attempting to setup the hotel room Internet connection and was presented with a pop-up window notifying the user to update a widely-used software product. If the user clicked to accept and install the update, malicious software was installed on the laptop. The pop-up window appeared to be offering a routine update to a legitimate software product for which updates are frequently available.

The FBI recommends that all government, private industry, and academic personnel who travel abroad take extra caution before updating software products on their hotel Internet connection. Checking the author or digital certificate of any prompted update to see if it corresponds to the software vendor may reveal an attempted attack. The FBI also recommends that travelers perform software updates on laptops immediately before traveling, and that they download software updates directly from the software vendor’s Web site if updates are necessary while abroad.

Anyone who believes they have been a target of this type of attack should immediately contact their local FBI office, and promptly report it to the IC3's website at www.IC3.gov. The IC3's complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration. The complaint information is also used to identify emerging trends and patterns.

You can find a copy of the alert here and you might want to consider signing up for future alerts here. Additional defensive measures that you can take include doing the following three things before you leave home on your travels:

  • Perform a full backup of your laptop.
  • Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.
  • Install the latest operating system and application updates.

If we obtain any further details about this threat we will publish them here. If you are currently traveling and want to perform a virus scan of your Windows laptop, you can use the free ESET online scanner.

 

Author Stephen Cobb, ESET

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