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.
Read more about Avast Software’s experiment.
Have you had a bad experience with free wifi in the past? What safety precautions do you take when using the internet while travelling?