May 10, 2012

The Malware Hotel

IC3's warning about malware in hotels is interesting because of it fails to identify who the aggressor is with clarity.  The key passage is this:

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.  

What does this mean? This warning is targeted to academics and government officials traveling abroad because state-sponsored actors use the malware installed via these networks to steal intellectual property and/or government secrets.  The main concerns?  China and Russia.

What can travelers do?  There are two options:

  • Use a temporary computer.  Some companies now have policies where employees who travel abroad travel with a disposable laptop to ensure that no IP or secrets available on their machines are stolen.
  • Go off the grid.  Tough to stomach for some but not so when compared to data or intellectual property loss.

The warning singles out laptops.  But let's not forget how India's government forced RIM to provide access to BlackBerry messages.

Finally, let's hope your frequent flyer miles aren't stolen while you get infected with malware overseas.

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