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#deepweb | 10 of the UK’s best spring walks | Travel

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Land of poems and stories: the Cotswolds

“If ever I heard blessing it is there. Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are.” In April and May the Cotswold landscape still speaks in the soft, calm tones of Laurie Lee. For a first-time visitor it can take a while to tune into the hard, spare, wall-bound fields of the Cotswold plateau. Yet in the valleys and on the scarp edges, there are bluebells and wood anemones, clear spring-fed streams and a soundtrack of willow warblers and blackcaps, fresh back from their winter travels.

The deep valleys around Stroud hold hanging woods, filled in April with the scent of wild garlic. At the National Trust-maintained Woodchester Park, where the half-completed Victorian manor stands mysterious in the valley bottom, it feels as though the clock has stopped and no one has yet arrived to restart it.

Further north, in my home patch, the same timeless feel pervades Hailes Abbey, with, above it, a monument marking Thomas Cromwell’s seat, from which it is said he watched the Abbey burn almost 500 years ago. From here you can walk a couple of miles along the Cotswold Way to Winchcombe.

Spring is a wonderful time to explore smaller towns and villages, many of which are the subject of poems and stories. For me, each name conjures a memory: a village cricket match in April snow at Guiting Power; my childhood love of Bibury, with its row of ancient cottages, river, watermill and trout farm. The trout leaping for dancing mayflies in the spring.

Today, an April treat is a long run or walk to listen to yellowhammers and skylarks along the Cotswolds’ western edge, from Winchcombe to Broadway. Here twisted elephant-bark beech trees mark the boundaries and the distant Malverns rise from the vale.
Andy Beer, whose book, Every Day Nature: How Noticing Nature Can Quietly Change Your Life, is out on 2 April (Pavilion Books, £12.99)

Marooned on holy island: Lindisfarne

Coves Haven Beach, Lindisfarne.

Coves Haven Beach, Lindisfarne. Photograph: Alamy

A few miles off the Northumberland coast, close to Berwick-upon-Tweed and the border with Scotland, lies the mystical island of Lindisfarne. Just getting there is an adventure, as you are sometimes in a race against the incoming tide. For one of the great joys of being on Lindisfarne is that when the three-mile-long causeway closes (for around 10 hours a day) no one can get on or off.

Tourists and pilgrims head to the medieval priory ruins or Lindisfarne Castle, but it’s the island’s expansive beauty, tranquillity and coastal walks that draw me here. When the tide starts coming in and the daytrippers scuttle back to the mainland, I stay on and pretend that I’m a local.

I first visited five years ago, on a cold winter’s eve, but I resolved to return and have done three times since.

In spring (May is best) the island is quieter than in crowded high summer, the wildflowers are beginning to burst into colour – look out for golden marsh-marigolds, lilac lady’s smock and pale blue forget-me-nots. Seabirds reel about in the sky, and you’ll hear the song of tiny meadow pipits and long-tailed pied wagtails.

This is the time when I, too, like to shake off my hibernal self and walk, in glorious solitude, past the harbour and castle, up the east coast path to Emmanuel Head, and then turn west to the wild, windy three-mile strip of sand that is North Shore.

If I set out before the causeway opens – the route via the castle up to the North Shore is along higher ground and not affected by the tides – I have this perfect walk to myself. Along the way, it’s a joy to meander down into the coves and beaches.

Coves Haven beach, which sits just past Sandham Bay, is my favourite place to pause for a sandwich or sip from my flask of tea.

At this time of year, I’m buoyed by the air that is less bite and more caress, the sun, surprisingly strong when it’s out, the swaying of the marram grass, the ghostly cry of the seals and the eider ducks – which sound as though you’ve just told them a filthy joke.

Fair weather or not, Lindisfarne is very special, a place I go to dive into peace and listen deeply to nature, alive in the salty, sea air.
Jini Reddy, whose new book, Wanderland, is out on 30 April (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

‘My whole being relaxes’: Rathlin Island, Co Antrim

Church bay, Rathlin Island.

Church Bay, Rathlin Island. Photograph: Andrea Ricordi, Italy/Getty Images

My first visit to Rathlin Island was a birthday celebration. I had turned 14, it was early spring, and this wild initiation deeply affected the way I experienced the natural world. Watching the web of life resurge in spring on Rathlin is a rare and unique awakening. Catching the ferry from Ballycastle, you land on an island that is hardly changed by time. Our world is spinning, seemingly uncontrollably, but on arriving somewhere like Rathlin Island, the uncoiling is instant. The reconnection with nature and ourselves, the unburdening, is hard to avoid here.

A fulmar off the cliffs of Rathlin Island.

A fulmar off the cliffs of Rathlin Island. Photograph: Getty Images

The island, shaped like a sycamore seed, lies off the north-east coast of Northern Ireland. Its rugged cliffs are home to the largest sea bird colony in the north of the island of Ireland, and of course, this was why I first begged to go. I longed to see the spring abundance, the birds arriving from sea to breed. Thousands of beating wings. Heart-splitting symphonic sound. The West Light Seabird Observatory, managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is where you go to view the clamouring. Fulmars, guillemots, razorbills and gannets congregate in spring, and in early summer puffins join the colony. The cascading movement of birds and waves draws out all the cumbersome weight of the world.

My whole being relaxes on Rathlin. The east of the island smells of salted dry wood, like an old ship hauled up on to horseshoe-shaped Church Bay. The community shop and little museum are crammed with wonderful island remnants.

Looking out to sea from Church Bay, you might see the surface perforated by surging seals. From the surrounding meadows and farmland, you might hear the bubbling of lapwings, mewing buzzards, the nightly winnowing of a snipe. In Kebble nature reserve in the west of the island you can, in spring, spot the unusual pyramidal bugle, one of the rarest wildflowers in the British Isles. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you may see a sprite of light: a golden, blue-eyed Irish hare, the will-o-the-wisp of the island. This heady wild wonderland is magnetic: if you visit once, it will reel you back in.
Dara McAnulty, 15, author of Diary of a Young Naturalist, out 5 June (Little Toller, £16)

England’s loneliest hike: Dengie peninsula, Essex

The Saxon chapel of Saint Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell-on-Sea.

The Saxon chapel of Saint Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell-on-Sea. Photograph: Tim Grist/Getty Images

Bradwell-on-Sea on the Dengie peninsula is my favourite place in spring: it’s 27 miles from my home, 43 minutes via country lanes in full blossom to this 30 acres of shell beach awash with ghosts and calm – plus we can take the dog.

I feel the past the moment we arrive. The seventh-century chapel, St Peter-on-the-Wall, overlooks the cockleshell dunes where late-pagan Britons were converted to Christianity. The occasional Thames barge floats by like a ghost ship.

Everything here seems slow. Oystercatchers beat in noisy circles, two at a time. Wind turbines fan hedgerows and fields of corn. I’m cautious around the beach edges. I’ve seen adders here: spring, when they wake from hibernation, is the best time to see them (but it’s rare so don’t let that put you off). They’re beautiful, and slide through wild crops of edible purslane like liquid silver falling down a plughole.

We look for fossils, pick the first shoots of samphire, and take afternoon swims. It’s about warm enough for the hardy from April – just. Mostly, if we’re feeling lazy, we just sit, drink coffee and watch the Blackwater ebb and flood.

Sometimes we walk. The best spring walk is southward, along the seawall to Burnham-on-Crouch. That 14 miles is the loneliest hike in England – you’re unlikely to see a soul, just nesting terns, flowering white sea kale and mewing buzzards.
Stephen Neale, author of The England Coast Path (Bloomsbury, £18.99)

Tides and treasure hunts: Dee estuary, Merseyside

Thurstaston beach, with views across the River Dee to North Wales.

Thurstaston beach, with views across the River Dee to North Wales. Photograph: Getty Images

Four times a year – in spring, summer, autumn and winter – I come with my family for a day of walking the banks of the Dee. Fifteen miles from my home town of Liverpool, the Dee is a river border between Wales and the Wirral peninsula, and the small towns and beaches on its banks give it the feel of a secret island.

Spring has a particular magic. We’ll walk along the sandstone prom in the village of Parkgate, buy an ice-cream from Nicholls and eat it on a bench watching the ever-changing estuary. This was once an embarkation point for Ireland but, by the mid-1800s, as the estuary silted up, Parkgate’s maritime days were over. Today it’s the salt marshes that make Parkgate a special place: it’s a breeding ground for skylarks, redshanks and egrets, and a hunting ground for peregrines and marsh harriers. Time it right and you might witness a rare visit from the tide as it swallows up the marsh and overlaps the promenade wall. As the seawater flushes out water voles, shrews and harvest mice, in come the kestrels, merlins and sparrowhawks as marsh reverts to sea.

Further along the coast is Thurstaston beach, a haunt of mine since childhood. A site of special scientific interest for its constantly eroding cliffs, Thurstaston is a strange landscape, a churning and collapsing place where my 14-year-old daughter and I hunt for precious stones: quartz and granite treasure glittering in the sunlight, occasionally a fossil, transported here from Scotland and the Lake District by ice-age glaciers.

At West Kirby we walk at low tide across the sands to Hilbre Island, an archipelago cut off from the mainland for four hours out of every 12. Check the BBC tide tables before setting out, and keep to the recommended route across the sand. Good boots or wellies are essential.

It takes an hour to reach Hilbre via smaller isles Little Eye and Middle Eye – and it’s vital to start your return three hours before high tide. In April, I have seen sandwich terns, Manx shearwaters and dunlins here. Sometimes there are fulmars and Arctic skuas. The old lifeboat station ruins are a good place for watching grey seals.

Above all, from anywhere along the Dee, watch and wait for sunset’s spectacular displays of changing light.
Jeff Young, whose latest book, Ghost Town, A Liverpool Shadowplay, is out now (Little Toller, £16)

‘Spring is not gentle here’: Treshnish Isles, Hebrides

Puffins on Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles.

Puffins on Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles. Photograph: Getty Images

I grew up in tropical Papua New Guinea, where there were only two seasons: the dry season and the monsoon. When I arrived in Scotland as a teenager I was mesmerised by its four seasons, especially spring, which navigates that precarious space between darkness and light – a faerie child creeping out from beneath the dark skirts of winter.

Spring has drawn me again and again to Lunga, one of the small islands and skerries that make up the Treshnish Isles, west of Mull and part of the Inner Hebrides. A site of special scientific interest, it is home to huge colonies of puffins (best seen from mid-April), razorbills, fulmars and shags, and is an important breeding area for grey seals.

Spring is not gentle here; new life is profuse but so is danger. The hares come out boxing, thousands of guillemots cling to sheer rock and cry a deafening “arrr, arrr”, and the puffins, which have come in off the Atlantic to lay their eggs in rabbit burrows, welcome humans, whose presence keeps away the skuas and gulls.

The weather is mercurial. Even landing is precarious. There is no beach – the boat sidles up to a profusion of boulders washed smooth by the Atlantic, and you jump across the divide, but the smell of gorse, camomile and salt as you climb the steep path to the plateau clears away the dregs of winter. From here you might spot minke whales, porpoises, basking sharks and sea eagles, and when the boat returns two hours later, it will seem too soon.

I base myself on Mull, in Tobermory, with its seafront cottages in spring-like shades of primrose, rose campion and bluebell. From here, boat trips by Staffa Tours (check if still running: 07831 885985) run to both Lunga and nearby Staffa. On my first visit 15 years ago, a thick veil of mist covered the sea as we headed out towards Lunga, and when it finally lifted we found a great basking shark travelling alongside us.
Kirstin Zhang, winner of Stanford’s New Travel Writer of the Year 2020 award

Strictly for the birds: Avalon Marshes, Somerset

Reeded pools and lakes at Avalon Marshes, with Glastonbury Tor in distance.

Reeded pools and lakes at Avalon Marshes. Photograph: David Dennis/Alamy

For a spring weekend seeking out some of Britain’s rarest breeding birds, Somerset’s Avalon Marshes are pretty hard to beat. Over the past 30 years, these former peat diggings have been transformed from unsightly holes in the ground into one of Britain’s top birding spots. It’s a linked series of nature reserves, and each has a mixture of open water and reedbeds. They are all crossed by a disused railway line giving easy access to viewpoints and hides. And for a break from the wildlife, Glastonbury, Wells, Cheddar Gorge and the charming village of Wedmore are all within easy reach.

When I moved here with my young family just over a decade ago, many of the birds I now see regularly were either absent or very rare. Since then, climate change and habitat creation have allowed several species from continental Europe to colonise these marshes. They include little, great white and now cattle egrets – the birds we usually only see perched on the backs of big African mammals in wildlife documentaries.

Great white egrets – the tallest member of their family – are easy to spot at the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve, in the shadow of Glastonbury Tor, and at the nearby Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Catcott Lows, also a regular site for cattle egrets.

At this time of year, I always try to get out before breakfast to catch the end of the dawn chorus. This is also the best time to hear one of our most elusive birds, the bittern, whose loud, booming call sounds like someone blowing across the top of a milk bottle. I don’t see bitterns very often, but on fine spring days they sometimes fly up from their reedbed hideaways – looking, as one young visitor suggested, like a “toasted heron”.

Birds of prey include buzzards, sparrowhawks and marsh harriers, which float low over the reeds, occasionally rising high into the sky to display. From late April, hobbies chase flying insects, while the reedbeds and adjacent vegetation are home to chiffchaffs, blackcaps, whitethroats, and several warbler species.

Other migrant visitors such as swallows, sand martins and swifts catch flying insects over the open water, and one of my favourite birds – the great crested grebe – performs its famous courtship display, the male and female rising up in the water to wave weed at one another in a bizarre gesture of affection.

On sunny spring days, hairy dragonflies and orange-tip butterflies are on the wing, and there is always a slim chance that you might stumble across an otter. And wherever I go, I look out for that unmistakable flash of blue as a kingfisher whizzes by.

For me, on a fine spring day there’s simply no better place to be than on the marshes.
Stephen Moss, whose latest book, The Accidental Countryside, is out now (Guardian Faber, £16.99). He also leads tours for Somerset Birdwatching Holidays

A great swoosh of green: Dwyryd valley, Gwyneth

Clear rippled water of the River Dwyryd flowing across a meadow

Clear rippled water of the River Dwyryd flowing across meadow

The clear, rippled water of the River Dwyryd flowing across meadows in Snowdonia National Park. Photograph: Steve_Bramall/Getty Images/iStockphoto

I have been to the Dwyryd valley many times: it’s a magical place for me, a great swoosh of everything that’s green and great about north Wales. And spring is absolutely the best time to go – be it early in the season, when the verges are sprung with primroses and crocuses, and the cries of new lambs fill the air, or a little later, when the hawthorns turn the hedgerows white and the woods are overflowing with bluebells.

My first encounter with this beautiful vale was a stay on a campsite near the quaint village of Maentwrog, as part of a trip to interview land artist David Nash, who is based up in Blaenau Ffestiniog – Mordor to Maentwrog’s Shire.

For several mornings, as I walked up to see David in his chapel workshop, the day dawning choral all about me, golden sun made the fresh-sprung grass and bronze-purple stones of the field walls shine. It was here, in 1978, that David set his wonderful work of land art, Wooden Boulder, in motion.

The huge rough-hewn sphere of heartwood fell into a stream when he was trying to move it to the chapel and slowly – buoyed, bounced and buffeted by hectic stream spate and lazy summer drift – meandered its way to the saltmarsh maze of the Dwyryd’s estuary.

Another springtime, drawn by memories of train songs and half-glimpsed smoke, I set off north up the valley, zigzagged my way up steepening slopes in clouds of pollen and heather fug, and emerged on a fir-tree’d ridge.

I found a path that led to a small sturdy cottage, in front of which curved a set of narrow-gauge railway tracks. There, I found a tiny platform. A painted sign read Coed y Bleiddiau (Wood of the Wolves). Hearing a distant huff and chuff, I saw a red locomotive approaching. I held out an arm and was overjoyed to see the train slow. It drew up before me, a steaming crimson and copper wonder.

I climbed aboard and the train began to trundle down to Porthmadog – ghosting above the Dwyryd river through ancient woodland and cuttings spangled with late snowdrops and daffodils. Over stone embankments, viaducts and bridges, past gardens strung with immaculate washing, through level crossings manned by fellows who wave, it slowly descended towards the bright estuary flats, Wooden Boulder and the Irish Sea. Coed y Bleiddiau has been my Ffestiniog outpost ever since.
The Ffestiniog Railway usually runs to Coed y Bleiddiau twice daily from the end of March to the beginning of November (though it was suspended until further notice this week).
Dan Richards, author of travel memoir Outpost, out in paperback on 2 April (Canongate, £9.99)

Pack for all weathers: Cornwall

View from the dunes at Porthkidney Sands.

View from the dunes at Porthkidney Sands. Photograph: Ian Woolcock/Alamy

There is a knack to packing for a trip to Cornwall in springtime: take everything. Some days you will be lucky, greeted by bright skies that make it impossible not to run headfirst into the waves. On others, the rain will so blur the landscape that it is hard to hold on to any discrete shape of the coast beneath it. This changeability is a large part of why I love England’s southernmost county at this time of year.

Lelant, the village where my mother and grandmother grew up, is on the quiet north coast of West Penwith, the region of Cornwall towards Land’s End. Lelant’s beach, Porthkidney Sands, occupies the same yawning bay as St Ives. Unlike St Ives, though, it has no car parks, cafes, or rows of toilets lined up before the sea like so many nervous swimmers. Instead you are met with an endless empty beach, where sandpipers hop in and out of the foam left by departing waves.

Virginia Woolf called it “vast & melancholy”, but since I was a child, it has been on this beach that I have felt most free. We’ll often stride out west along the coastal path from Lelant to Zennor, stopping briefly in St Ives to visit the bronze abstract figures in Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture garden, prettily framed by blossoming trees. Zennor is a village set atop a wild stretch of granite cliffs, which erupts with lavender-coloured spikes of squill and pink tufts of thrift in spring.

Zennor’s church, St Senara, is home to the “Mermaid Chair”, a 600-year-old pew with a mermaid combing her hair carved into its side. There’s a famous folktale attached to this pew, telling how a young man followed a mermaid over the cliffs and never returned.
Lamorna Ash, whose first book, Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town is out on 2 April (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

Big skies and salty air: Suffolk coast

The River Blyth, with Blythborough church in the distance.

The River Blyth, with Blythborough church in the distance. Photograph: Sid Frisby/Alamy

The rich coastal landscape of Suffolk has inspired scores of composers, artists and writers, not least Benjamin Britten and the German writer WG Sebald, whose Rings of Saturn takes readers on a pilgrimage deep into the human soul. My own quest to understand why so many of us embark on pilgrimages began here, one April, as I set Sebald’s book down and turned my gaze out to sea.

With big skies and salty air, and hedgerows bursting with blossom and birdsong, spring here offers a tonic for mind and body; it feels like you can step out of time into a simpler world. I love to amble along the footpath by the River Blyth – starting from Walberswick. With marsh harriers circling overhead, waders calling and the song of larks ascending, your heart lifts.

In the opposite direction is a circular trail along wooden causeways through marshes where, by May, reed warblers will be busy building nests and cuckoos calling to their mates as they have done since time immemorial. For a fee of £1, the Walberswick ferry, a traditional rowing boat, will take you across the river to Southwold, and back to the 21st century.

Another favourite in spring, a little further up the coast, is the walk from Pakefield into Lowestoft, whose promenade and beach offer plenty of space. Inland, the 12 acres of formal gardens at Somerleyton Hall (check that it is open first) present lots of ideas for spring planting. It is one of the finest gardens in East Anglia, with areas from a walled garden to an arboretum. The rhododendron walk is amazing in May.
Victoria Preston, author of We Are Pilgrims – Journeys in Search of Ourselves, out on 9 April (£14.99, Hurst)

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#deepweb | Online communication tools keep business dialogues going for travel players

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Web-conferencing and instant messaging tools are seeing greater usage among travel and tourism trade players who are determined to keep business dialogue alive as the appeal of face-to-face meetings diminish against a backdrop of Covid-19 infection fears.

Sheryl Lim, founder of Singapore-based travel agency Travel Wander, found herself turning to online presentations to keep her regular clientele informed on new adventure tours and destinations as well as reach out to potential new customers.
Businesses turn to digital communication tools to continue operations remotely amid Covid-19

“Our usual marketing efforts involve conducting product presentations at specific venues but as soon as Covid-19 happened, people started to refrain from going out or meeting other people,” Lim recalled.

“We were in a fix because as a small company, we cannot stop moving and must keep up our marketing efforts. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes, so we must maintain contact with our customers and the marketplace now so that when travel confidence returns, they will consider Travel Wander for their travel planning.”

With print or radio ads priced out of her budget, she turned to web-conferencing tools.

“The travel planning business is a very personal one, where clients prefer meeting face-to-face. But the pandemic has presented us with an unusual situation, and webinars are a good solution that enables us to keep up with sales and marketing communications,” she said.

Travel Wander conducted its first presentation two weeks ago, focusing on the joy of active holidays. The content, delivered through slides and a narration, explained what active holidays were all about, and dispelled myths around such tours. Six people attended it. A week later, a webinar on Sarawak drew 10 people.

Lim has planned a third on Kazakhstan this week, and aims to conduct a weekly session and is working on improving the format to facilitate conversations. The webinars are promoted to regular clients who then spread the word within their social circle.

The product webinars have allowed Lim to determine which destinations were more popular, based on webinar sign-up performance.

For other travel companies that are already utilising web-conferencing, the current pandemic has underscored the value of this mode of communications.

Adam Kamal, general manager of Malaysia’s Suka Travel, said his team is now working remotely from home, relying on WhatsApp video conferencing to address urgent matters, on top of their usual web-conferences with overseas suppliers and outstation agents.

The remote work arrangement was necessary as the government had on Monday evening issued an order to temporarily shutter businesses and restrict movement to fight against Covid-19.

Adam said he introduced and encouraged web-conferencing when he joined the agency last November, and applauded the convenience and cost savings it offers.

“Web-conferencing allows our partners to pull up documents, charts and pictures as they speak. (It also) saves time and costs as we can do meetings virtually. If it were face-to-face meetings, we would have to rent space to hold a seminar and pay for light refreshments,” he said.

Bayu Buana Travel Services Indonesia, which now has 50 per cent of its staff working from home, is encouraging continued reliance on web-conferencing tools to keep dialogues open with airline partners and clients during these trying times.

Agustinus Pake Seko, president director of Bayu Buana Travel Services Indonesia, said his team is familiar with web-conferencing, as there are regular online global meetings with BCD Travel, which the company is part of.
Laurens: companies are waking up to the benefits of digital transformation amid Covid-19 

Laurens van den Oever, CMO at research firm ForwardKeys, opined that the “one good thing to come out of the coronavirus” is the emphasis on the value of “how to be savvier with our digital offerings, such as travel alerts, impact reports and newsletters”.

“In every business, you need to invest in the necessary tools and equipment for your team. Different time zones, cultural barriers, epidemics and pandemics should not impede the running of your business nor throw you into the Dark Ages,” Oever said.

The ForwardKeys team relies on a suite of communication services, such as Zoom, Slack, WhatsApp and webinars/web information sessions for internal interaction, and Zoom mostly by its analysts to connect with external clients.

“These have helped us a lot (in maintaining business communications, especially now) with all the travel limitations and tradeshow cancellations due to the (outbreak),” he added. – Additional reporting by S Puvaneswary and Mimi Hudoyo

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Man, 30, held over #hacking attacks on two #Hong Kong #travel #agencies

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Officers raid IT worker’s flat on Cheung Chau and also seize two desktop computers, two laptops, one tablet, three hard disks and five mobile phones

A 30-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested in connection with cyberattacks in which the computers of two travel agencies in the city were hacked and their clients’ sensitive personal information held for ransom, with payouts in bitcoin sought last week.

The two travel agencies reported the incidents to police on January 1 and 2.

One bitcoin (HK$123,735 or US$15,819) was demanded as a ransom in each hacking case, according to police.

Officers from the force’s Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau raided a flat in the outlying island of Cheung Chau and arrested the man on Saturday.

During the operation, police seized two desktop computers, two laptops, one tablet, three hard disks and five mobile phones in the flat.

At lunchtime on Monday, police escorted the suspect to his workplace on Hoi Yuen Road in the Kwun Tong district of Kowloon to gather evidence.

The Post understands the suspect, a computer technician, hacked into the computers of the agencies on New Year’s Day through security loopholes on their websites hours before the companies were hit with demands for a ransom to be paid in bitcoin.

“An email was sent to the persons in charge of the companies after the personal information of more than 20,000 customers was stolen from the computer servers of the agencies,” a police source said.

“The companies were told to pay in bitcoin in a newly opened account with threats that their customers’ data would be posted on the internet if the firms failed to pay on Saturday.”

The stolen information included customers’ names, identity card numbers and contact numbers but no credit card information was involved.

Officers from the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau were understood to have worked around the clock and checked tens of thousands of log records to the servers to gather information.

“Investigations showed circuitous routes were used to hack into the computer servers, but officers eventually identified the suspect through his IP address,” another source said.

He said the man was nabbed at home on Cheung Chau hours before the payment deadline.

Officers would carry out a forensic examination of the victims’ computers and hard disks to gather information, he said.

At about 5pm on Monday, the suspect was still being held for questioning and had not been charged.

“We believe his motive was to look for money,” said bureau superintendent Swalikh Mohammed said.

Investigations were continuing and he did not rule out the possibility of further arrests.

“The cyber world is not a lawless place where criminals can hide. A majority of the laws applicable to the real world can also be applied to the internet,” he warned.

He said blackmail was a serious offence that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Travel agency Goldjoy Holidays revealed on Thursday that unauthorised parties accessed its customer database containing personal information such as names and identity card numbers, passport details and phone numbers.

The company apologised to customers and promised it was taking steps to tighten cybersecurity.

The other agency, Big Line Holiday, said on Wednesday night that hackers might have broken into its database a day earlier and gained possession of some of its customers’ personal information.

The data was believed to include ID card numbers, home return permit numbers and phone numbers.

In a statement, Big Line said: “Our company attaches great importance to this incident and deeply apologises to the affected clients.”

Big Line, which has 13 branches and organises tours to mainland China and Asia, said it received a letter from perpetrators demanding a sum of money for the release of the information.

In November, one of the city’s largest travel agencies, Hong Kong-listed WWPKG Holdings, revealed that its customer database had also been hacked, putting at risk personal data such as ID card numbers and credit card information of some 200,000 customers.

The culprits had asked for a seven-figure ransom, to be paid in bitcoin, but the firm did not pay and instead called the police, who later managed to decrypt the data. Because of the hacking incident, all four of the agency’s branches -in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok, Causeway Bay and Sha Tin – were closed for a day.

The force recorded 653 cases of cybercrimes in 2005, the first year it began tracking such offences, and saw the number reach 5,939 in 2016, with financial losses hitting HK$2.3 billion.

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Why #Cybersecurity in the #Travel and #Hospitality #Sector is So #Critical?

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

For many years now, cybersecurity has been a primary concern of government organisations and the banking sector, but the hospitality and travel industry is beginning to acknowledge the importance of online security in its day-to-day operations.

Each travel operator, hotel or transport company handles all kinds of sensitive data on their customers, as well as their own staff and suppliers. The consequences of organisations experiencing online data breaches are now higher than ever before. For instance, if a travel operator is hacked, leaking thousands of personal addresses of customers, they face significant financial, legal and reputational ramifications. The loss of customer confidence in the operator and the legal costs of any resulting identity theft would hit any travel operator big or small right where it hurts – the profit and loss sheet.

As businesses within the travel and hospitality sector grow, so too does their global footprint of sensitive data. There is an increasing need for these brands to maintain the privacy, integrity and security of all personal information that is in their care. A sure-fire data security 101 tip is to implement a robust user rights management hierarchy. This can help to control the level of sensitive data an individual can access in line with their seniority within the organisation as well as their job description. It requires travel companies – particularly those with global workforces – to keep a tight reign on their user rights systems to remove dormant users that may have left the company; mitigating the possibility of any revenge attacks. Organisations should also closely monitor and audit their employees’ data usage to pinpoint any signs of access abuse, which is not always malicious but can still have ramifications for the company when it’s not.

The major elephant in the room for travel and hospitality brands operating in and out of Europe is the new impending European regulations designed to safeguard customer data. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been devised by the European Union (EU) and will come into force next year. Although GDPR is aimed at giving the average consumer or holidaymaker greater control over how their personal data is used and stored, it also gives travel and hospitality organisations greater clarity about data protection law, creating one legislation across the entire single market.

Under the GDPR rules, travel and hospitality firms that fail to comply in time for 25th May 2018 could experience hugely damaging financial penalties which could plunge brands into difficult times; perhaps even closure. The upper limit penalty for non-compliance will be €20m or 4% of an organisation’s annual global turnover; whichever is greater. GDPR will affect all kinds of departments of travel firms; from legal and compliance teams to IT and marketing divisions. Those within the travel and hospitality industry must therefore take the protection of customer and employee data as seriously as their revenue.

Regular security audits, increased encryption of data and watertight password control are no longer something that can be ignored. So too are lawful marketing campaigns and privacy policies, while teams should be educated and briefed on how to handle a data breach if – and when – the time comes. Travel professionals handle more data than you realise and meeting those new obligations will not only keep brands on the right side of the law, it will increase consumer confidence and strengthen brand reputation overall.

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Vetting of social media, phones possible as part of travel ban review

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

The Trump administration is developing new ways to vet people coming into the United States as a deadline in the President’s controversial travel ban nears, officials said Tuesday. “Each of the opportunities that the US government has to interview and/or vet potential inbound travelers is being reviewed,” acting Customs and…

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Dealing With Fraud Prevention In The Travel Industry

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

A card not present transaction also known as MO/TO (Mail Order/Telephone Order) is a payment card transaction made where the cardholder does not or cannot physically present the card to a merchant for order verification such as for transactions by

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Are online travel sites providing biased information?


Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Are online travel sites providing biased information?

A cyber war has erupted in recent weeks between major online travel agencies such as Expedia (EXPE) and (PCLN) and hotel chains over how some discounts are being offered to consumers.
Earlier this year, Marriott (MAR), Wyndham (WYN) and

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Japan’s largest travel agency fears data leak impacts 8 million users


Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Japan’s major travel agency JTB has admitted to a cyberattack which it fears has led to the theft of data belonging to 7.93 million users. In today’s day and age where major data breaches are heard of almost weekly, the odd eight million doesn’t sound too critical. However, in JTB’s case, the travel agency believes […]

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Police: Bookkeeper used office credit card to buy $96K in groceries, personal travel

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Police: Bookkeeper used office credit card to buy $96K in groceries, personal travel

A woman who worked as a bookkeeper for a West Palm Beach construction business is accused of making more than $96,000 in fraudulent charges while using her company’s credit account, police said. City police say Jessica Erinne Mount, 37, used a company Capital One credit card to buy personal airline tickets, go grocery shopping, and make online purchases. Investigators report $96,470.32 was charged from October of 2014 until the alleged fraud was discovered in February. According to police, Mount began working  for GSP Associates in August 2014. The company remodels and rennovates houses, according to its website. Mount was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail Tuesday and released Wednesday on $5,000 bail. She faces charges of grand theft and scheme to defraud. Mount previously had a listed address in Delray Beach, but jail records show her currently calling an address in Hawaii home. Company officials reported the suspected fraud in February after discovering hundreds of charges made on a card with Mount’s name, police said. The company’s president and founder, Glenn Percy, told officers Mount was not authorized to have or obtain a company credit card, investigators report. Percy told officers he spoke to Mount about the company card and […]

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