Few things matter more than a solid Internet connection when you’re a geek on the run. Along those lines, you can find decent Wi-Fi at airports, but you’ll pay through the nose to access it – most of the time, that is. Skype’s pulling its best Santa Claus impression and gifting fliers (naughty or nice) with an hour of free Wi-Fi at 50 airports across the U.S. during the peak holiday travel season.
All of a sudden, malware is making flying the friendly skies seem not so friendly anymore. Last week we learned that a malware infected mainframe may have doomed an Spanish airliner, and now Symantec tells us that some airport terminals are muddled with malicious code.
These public terminals are used by passengers without their own laptops to hop online and surf the Web or check email, but don't assume you're surfing a safe connection.
"In a large airport in England, we noticed one terminal with an usual 'Defense Installer' dialog box," Symantec explains. "'Defense Center Installer' is a fake anti-virus software, also known as 'scareware.'"
This common bit of malicious code dupes users into buying seemingly legit AV software and tries to uninstall the real deal that you may have already installed. Symantec says it's troubling to find these pop-ups on airport terminals.
"While this particular 'scareware' will only infect the Internet terminal, it is an indicator that these terminals are inadequately protected and vulnerable to a full range of malware," Symantec warns. "As an example of potential threats consider that a keylogger on one of these terminals could capture a person's username and password for their airline account, bank account, webmail, social media account, or any other private account used on the terminal potentially compromising those accounts."
As with an public PC, think twice before logging into any private accounts.
Following a failed terrorist attack over the weekend, in which a 23-year-old Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab managed to smuggle PETN and a syringe of chemicals aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the U.S. government is tightening up security, possibly banning all electronics on inbound flights to the U.S.
"New flight rules - Body search, no electronics apply only to int'l flights to US. Just landed in ORD from Canada, missed connection," Charlene Li, an industry analyst with Altimeter Group, wrote on her Twitter page.
Li's experience might not be the norm, which seems to be exactly what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is trying to accomplish.
"Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere," the TSA said in a statement.
Keep in mind that the TSA didn't come out and say it was banning all electronics, but according to passenger reports, they're at least being restricted.