Picture the scene. You’re travelling abroad on business and spending some time between meetings in the lobby of your 5* hotel. Deciding to use your downtime wisely you log into the hotel’s Wi-Fi connection to log into your email, catch up on social media and check your credit card statements to start working on your expenses. Pretty normal and mundane so far, or is it?

A free Wi-Fi connection when you’re travelling, especially abroad and want to avoid roaming charges, can seem like a lifesaver. Many of us use them without a second thought, especially in hotels,  well-known restaurants and retail locations. But did you know that with ‘free’ Wi-Fi comes pretty significant risks and you could be exposing your business and personal data to cybercriminals?

The risks of public Wi-Fi are nothing new and have been well documented, but global research from Statista shows that many people still don’t understand the risks involved.  In fact, worldwide stats show that 59% of adults used public Wi-Fi to log into their personal email accounts, 56% logged into their social media and 25% checked their bank accounts or accessed other financial information.

In this blog we’ll answer some questions about the risks associated with free and public Wi-Fi and provide some tips on  how you can protect your data when you’re on the move.

What is a rogue hotspot?

You may think you are joining the hotel’s Wi-Fi but in reality you might be joining a network with a similar name  that is actually a rogue hotspot. These lookalike portals have been set up by cybercriminals to lure unsuspecting people in.

What is a man in the middle attack?

Free Wi-Fi is a common way for cybercriminals to obtain access to your data. By accepting access to these so called free sites you can effectively provide access to all of your data. Once you connect to a rogue hotspot the Wi-Fi router acts as a classic Man in the Middle service that basically watches and collects everything you do online, this can include credit card, social security and any other data you provide while browsing.

Is there a bigger risk if I use Facebook or Google to login?

Yes! Although this seems like the easy option at the time, it is not recommended, even on legitimate Wi-Fi connections. When you choose this option you are essentially granting access to the network, which means you are also disclosing your location and other personal information to these services as well as providing them with information such as your name and birthday and access to your list of friends.  If you must use a public connection take the extra time to create an account.

What are some tips for connecting on the go?

  • If you absolutely must use a public Wi-Fi hotspot it is important to ensure they are from legitimate entities, such as the airport, or hotel you are in, so check that you are actually using the authoritative hotspot before logging in.
  • Avoid unsecured password-free Wi-Fi networks at all costs.
  • Never share any of your personally identifiable information (PII) (address, phone number, social security number, etc).
  • Consider using a VPN to encrypt your traffic while you are using such sites. There are plenty of software providers these services.
  • Don’t log in to password-protected websites that contain sensitive information if you are using a public Wi-Fi connection. Namely, banking and social networking sites, and even email.
  • When browsing be sure to enable the “Always Use HTTPS” option on websites that you visit frequently and be sure to include any that require you to enter your credentials.
  • Ensure your software and operating systems are up to date on all of your devices.
  • Avoid the temptation to login with your Google or social media accounts.
  • Turn of file sharing on your device.
  • Use your personal data plan to get online when you’re on the go.

What else I can do to help ensure I don’t fall victim to cybercrime?

The risks of public Wi-Fi aside,  we all need to do more to protect ourselves against today’s sophisticated cybercriminals.Hackers are going to get in, that’s inevitable. Thankfully new technology exists that can stop hackers in their tracks before they a chance to remove your data. BlackFog Privacy is able to spot attackers in real-time when an attacker has infiltrated the system, so hackers are prevented from removing any of your data.

Prevention really is the best form of defense so adopting a multi-layer defence system to protect your privacy, prevent data loss and put a stop to unauthorized data profiling and data collection is recommended. A solution that blocks outbound data flow will ensure that what’s on your device stays on your device so you can use your device with confidence knowing that your personal information is secure, even if you are using a free Wi-Fi hotspot.