According to a recent study by internet-security firm Kaspersky Lab, the urge to go online the moment they reach foreign soil and connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks is putting the personal data of a high proportion of people at risk.
The study, which found that cybercrimes are commonplace when abroad, showed that as ever more essential travel information – from maps and hotel confirmations to check-in details and boarding passes – is stored online, international travelers often have no choice but to connect upon arrival. Many will be keen to use Wi-Fi rather than incur roaming charges, despite the fact that doing so will expose them to risk.
The research, which polled 11,850 people globally, found that on leaving the airport, 44 percent of travelers are already online, with 69 percent connecting in order to let family and loved ones know they have arrived safely, and nearly 39 percent saying they connect mainly to download travel information. Pressure from work is also a strong factor with 38 percent feeling obligated to stay connected, as is the desire to get up to speed on social media, conveyed by 34 percent of the survey respondents. And, 34 percent simply state that it is instinctive to go online as soon as possible.
The survey showed 82 percent of the people connect to unsecured, free-to-use public access Wi-Fi networks in airport terminals, hotels, cafes or restaurants. Over 60 percent of the survey’s respondents say they bank and 55 percent claim to shop online over Wi-Fi while abroad.
But away from home, and trusted networks, the lack of regard for network security plays into the hands of cybercriminals. Almost one in five travelers has been a victim of cybercrime while away from home. This is not surprising if you consider the fact that our digital habits barely change while we are abroad, even though we may be more exposed to unsecure public networks.
Experts say the first thing one should do after connecting to the net while abroad is connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), in addition to keeping all your software up-to-date and remembering not to trust anyone on the internet.