Summer is upon us. For many Americans, summer is synonymous with travel, whether for work or leisure. According to Airlines for America, 257.4 million passengers are expected to fly on U.S. airlines between 01 June and 31 August. If you log on to public Wi-Fi at an airport terminal to check your email between flights or browse your credit card statements after a long day of meetings using your hotel’s Wi-Fi network, you are putting yourself and your organization at risk. 

While the average cost per lost and stolen documents is $225 for an individual, in a widescale corporate breach (50k compromised documents) the average cost is $6.3 million. Even worse, according to the Ponemon Institute, once a breach has occurred, there is a 27.7% probability of a recurring material data breach over the next two years. So, what are the risks associated with public Wi-Fi and how they can they be mitigated?

The Risks of Using Public Wi-Fi

1) Man in the Middle Attacks

A Man in the Middle attack (MitM) is an event whereby a cybercriminal intercepts data as it travels between two parties. The attacker can then:

  • Eavesdrop on all internet use, communications, and data transfers
  • Redirect the victim’s communications to fake websites resembling banks, corporate sites etc. to obtain log-in credentials


Source: Imperva 

2) Snooping and Sniffing

Similar to MitM, snooping and sniffing is when hackers employ software kits enabling them to eavesdrop on Wi-Fi signals. This allows cybercriminals to monitor everything you do online, allowing them to capture log-in credentials and even hijack your accounts.

3) Malware Distribution

Hackers can infect your device with malicious software in several ways:

  • Using unsecured Wi-Fi connection to distribute malware
  • By creating an ad hoc peer-to-peer network between you and the hacker, if your device is set to “discover new networks,” it is possible for cybercriminals to forge a direct link to your device
  • Once on your network, a hacker can send you fake install update notification, where you download malware directly onto your device
  • Using worms. Unlike viruses, worms need not be downloaded onto your device, rather they can be spread from computer to computer within a public Wi-Fi network
4) Fake Hotspots

Using an innocuous or reputable name, rogue access points fool victims into signing onto hackers’ rogue networks. Hackers then can record all keystrokes to gain valuable information, including passwords.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

Follow these recommendations to limit cybercriminals’ ability to compromise your device:

  • Use a VPN, to secure your public Wi-Fi connections
  • Disable file sharing
  • Only visit sites using HTTPS
  • Log out of accounts when done using them
  • Limit your sensitive activity while using public Wi-Fi
  • Protect your device with up-to-date antivirus software
  • Log onto a network that isn’t password protected
  • Allow your Wi-Fi to auto-connect to networks
  • Use an app to access sensitive information - use the website instead
  • Leave your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on if you are not using them


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 Source: SEO Pressor

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