People have become accustomed to using their mobile devices for the dual purposes of business and leisure.
Yet, a 2017 Wi-Fi risk study conducted by Norton shows they don’t really give the data on their devices a second thought when they go away.
Instead, 71 percent of those interviewed rated strong Wi-Fi access as a decisive factor when choosing a holiday hotel or apartment.
Such dependence on public Wi-Fi risks exposing sensitive business information to hackers and snoopers. That’s why it is best to always take your Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology with you on holiday so you can encrypt all your Internet communications during your travels.
World of Risk
Jetting away to far off destinations opens you up to a world of risk.
Some countries like Brazil and China have a particularly poor reputation for Internet hacking and state interference.
However, recent studies show that even the “safest” countries are not always that secure.
Brazil is a world leader in have-a-go cyber criminals. Travellers to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games were given repeated warnings of the risks of hackers hijacking personal devices with malware.
In the Far East, the threat footprint stretches right across the Asia Pacific region.
China is a major state sponsor of Internet snooping. The authorities there have imposed strict controls over how the Internet is accessed. The so-called Great Firewall of China monitors all data traffic going in and out of the country.
The truth, however, is that no country is 100 percent free of public Wi-Fi threats.
The statistics show the USA has 5 million mobile threats, the UK 2 million, France 0.7 million, Poland 0.475 million while Italy and Canada both have 0.4 million.
A May 2017 survey from Norton by Symantec interviewed over 15,000 mobile device users from 15 countries about their attitudes to using public Wi-Fi.
The report revealed more than half of respondents (55 percent) did not think twice before connecting to a public Wi-Fi signal.
In fact, so strong is the desire to go online that 46 percent said they were unable to wait more than a few minutes before logging onto a free hotspot or asking for a password so they can browse the web while in a café or public location.
The survey found that this dependency on public Wi-Fi is putting personal – and potentially business – information at risk.
As many as six users in every 10 said they feel their personal information is safe when using public Wi-Fi, yet 53 percent can’t tell the difference between a secure or unsecure public Wi-Fi network.
An overwhelming majority of users (87 percent) had put information at risk using public Wi-Fi.
Three quarters of them could straight away cut the risks dramatically if only they thought to connect to the Internet via a VPN.
A good level of protection against the risks of Internet browsing while on holiday is not that hard to achieve. Some basic guidelines for securing data on mobile devices while on holiday include:
- Password-protect your apps – Update passwords with fresh, strong passwords of eight characters or longer before leaving home. If possible, use two-factor authentication and use a password management system to avoid having to remember everything.
- Check for https when paying online – A genuine secure payment site will prefix the URL with https: together with a padlock symbol.
- Avoid sharing sensitive data – It is very likely that the Wi-Fi hotspots you find on holiday will be open to all guests. Never share sensitive information like bank details, names and addresses over an unfamiliar Internet connection as thieves may have compromised them with malware that could steal the data.
- Don’t forget a VPN – It is safest to assume that Internet access in cafés, hotels, shopping malls, train stations and other public areas is already compromised. If you have to use public access points, make sure you turn on your VPN first. This will ensure that any information you send is encrypted and invisible to prying eyes.
In summary, connecting personal devices to the Internet while on holiday is fraught with risk. There are certain operations – such as online banking – that are just not worth attempting no matter how secure and legitimate the website appears.
However, with the right precautions and professional VPN software it is possible to achieve robust endpoint protection that shields travellers and any company-sensitive information on their devices from the dangers of using public Wi-Fi.