The urge to go online the moment they reach foreign soil sees a high proportion of people connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, putting their personal data at risk, according to a study by Kaspersky Lab.
The research, which polled 11,= 850 people from across the world, found that cybercrime is commonplace when abroad. However, 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 WiFi rather than risk incurring roaming charges, despite the fact that doing so will expose them to risk.
On leaving the airport, the research showed that over half of South African travelers (55%) are already online, with most (81%) connecting in order to let family and loved ones know they have arrived safely, and 38% saying they connect mainly to download travel information. Pressure from work (42%) is also a strong factor, as is the desire to get up to speed on social media (38%). Meanwhile, 42% of South African travelers state, simply, that it is instinctive to go online as soon as possible.
We are so used to being connected when we are at home, that when we are abroad, we hardly give a second thought to where we connect, how we connect or who might be ‘listening’ in; and so 77% connect to unsecured, free-to-use public access WiFi networks in airport terminals, hotels, cafes or restaurants.
But away from home, and trusted networks, the lack of regard for network security plays into the hands of cybercriminals: 17% of South African travelers have been a victim of cybercrime while away from home, compared to 8% of those who have faced real-life crime.
This is not surprising if you consider the fact that our digital habits barely change while we’re abroad, even though we may be more exposed to unsecure public networks. More than half of the survey’s respondents say they bank (72%) and shop (63%) online over WiFi while abroad.
Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab, says: “I travel a lot. My business schedule is all about meetings, conferences and negotiations right around the globe. More than 100 flights a year is the norm for me. And of course I use various public Wi-Fi networks to access the Internet all the time.
“The first thing I do after connecting to the net is connect to a VPN (in my case the Kaspersky Lab VPN), and that is pretty much the best precaution I’d recommend anyone. That and, of course, keeping all your software – including your security suite – up-to-date, and not trusting anyone on the Internet.”