21st Mar 2016

One thing never to do while travelling

SJ Fallick

We’re going to take a wild guess and say we’re 99 per cent sure you’ve made this mistake at some point while travelling. I certainly know I’m guilty of it on many occasions. What we’re talking about is free wifi.

In the quest for internet access that doesn’t result in post-holiday bill shock, the majority of us will log on to any free wifi on which we can get our fingertips. But at what cost? Avast Software, a Cybersecurity company in the US, undertook an experiment to highlight the security risk associated with free wifi networks. To say the results were worrying would be an understatement.

During Europe’s big mobile technology conference Mobile World Congress, Avast Software used Barcelona Airport for their experiment, creating a few different wifi networks, with names like “Starbucks”, “Airport_Free_Wifi_AENA”, and MWC Free Wi-Fi”. Despite not knowing who was in control of those networks over 2000 people logged on during the only four hours the wifi was available.

The information Avast Software was able to access is enough to make your hair stand on end. Not only could they see what apps users of their wifi networks were using but also from which devices they were accessing the networks. Furthermore, from a majority of devices, they were able to obtain the user’s identity. If that’s not enough to scare you, I don’t know what is!

While Avast security only conducted the experiment to showcase how susceptible free wifi seekers can be to hackers, those 2000 people may not be so lucky next time. Either way, it’s a timely reminder to us all that no Facebook status is worth the risk of identity theft.

So, how can you make sure you stay safe when you need to use wifi while travelling? The best option is to use a safe network, such as your accommodation’s wifi or to ask employees, such as at a cafés, which network is actually theirs. Free wifi that you happen to stumble upon may end up costing you a lot more than you intended.

You can read more about Avast Software’s experiment here.

Have you had a bad experience with free wifi in the past? What safety precautions do you take when using the internet while travelling?

Related articles:
The airport app you need now
Seven handy airport tech tricks
Using your smartphone for wifi



SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her plane essentials include noise-cancelling headphones, a solid Spotify playlist, sleeping tablets, an eyemask and a large scarf that doubles as a blanket on cold flights – i.e. every one.


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26th Mar 2016
Even the 'authentic' wi-fi providers will still put you on their sucker lists once you sign up. I'm still getting spam from the Budapest Airport two years after flying out, and there's no 'unsubscribe' option. Same goes for some of the international hotel chains. Annoying, but of course not risk-creating - hopefully.
26th Mar 2016
Just use your 'block sender' option on your email provider
26th Mar 2016
I find the easiest way is once you reach your point of departure, send a quick SMS to those who need to know and then the phone and laptop are turned off. i don't need to stroke my ego by trying to look like the worlds biggest wheeler dealer.
26th Mar 2016
So was it 2000 people or 4000???
28th Mar 2016
Apologies blox that was my typo - it was 2,000. Thank you for picking this up.

27th Mar 2016
If they have a look at generally the only app I use via my crappy phone on free wi-fi services, they will find it's....

Wait for it...

This is scary....


And I always change my password as soon as I get somewhere more secure.
28th Mar 2016
Changing your password as often as possible is a great security measure Barak. Thanks for sharing the tip!
8th Aug 2016
Difficult when you have more than one password for your many accounts but safer if you must use wifi at dubious locations. So how does one keep track of passwords? Memory in older people ain't what it used to be Sue.
27th Mar 2016
So it's safe to use the recommended Flio app? or leave airport wifi alone full stop?
8th Aug 2016
One needs to NEVER access bank accounts or do anything sensitive at wifi spots. Common sense but human nature would dictate 'if it feels good do it' so I can understand what people would do....and then complain when they get into trouble. A bit like rolling the dice.
26th Aug 2016
Nope,never access your bank accounts at all...unless emergency.
Only use for finding my way around.
People need to use commonsense. We never had all this social media years ago...we went on holidays and sent postcards LOL. No need to keep constantly in touch is there???
8th Sep 2016
There's no safe free (or paid) wifi option, hotels are not safe you do not know who may be accessing the network. You may be surprised how often these networks are open....so open in fact that you can look at the hotel's data on their pc's. You know things like booking details, guests details, employees details (including TFNs), how profitable the hotel is. Then on these open networks other guests who have their laptops open can be seen....so you have full access to them also. It's all very scary, you just need to be very selective and keep passwords changed and laptops secured with passwords.
17th Dec 2016
May i suggest using a VPN? As one example PureVpn offers a product that allows you to use a number if devices. On an iPhone install it (easy) and just switch on VPN in the settings. On your mac the application is more nuanced but can be run simoly. I have given up on windows after the serial debacle of windows 8 and now 10, and have parked my windiws laptop in the back of the cupboard so have never bothered slugging it out woth microfofts software ..its good ne to such an unsable kevel that the effort just isnt worth it. So my iPad and iphone is simply protected as descrobed, and more abd more oeople are leaving laptops at hone and using tablets
21st Jan 2017
For Australian airports, I have my pre-paid internet.
Tom Tank
15th Apr 2017
When I travel I use a different email address to my everyday one. I also use an old laptop for travelling that is never ever used for any financial transactions. My friends all know that address.

Tags: travel, tips, tech

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