Public enterprises – like coffee shops and libraries – offer free internet service to ensure complete customer satisfaction. More than often, one primarily visits these public facilities to avail their internet. Out of all the places that offer free internet, none is more revered than the airport. Airport WiFi ensures that you either catch up on pending business work or stay online and pass time while waiting for your flight. However, airport WiFi being an unsecured network poses numerous security threat. One must be aware of the vulnerabilities of connecting to a free airport WiFi, the knowledge of which can prevent your personal information from being hacked by a malicious identity thief.
First and foremost, a traveler must be aware of the name under which the official airport WiFi is operated. A hacker or identity thief can set up their own hotspot inside the airport, using a few run-of-the-mill battery-powered equipments, and name it in such a way that it closely resembles the airport Wi-Fi. Such networks are known as the “evil twin” and does its best to replicate the official airport WiFi. In the off-chance that someone connects to such a network, the hacker who initiated it can access the information stored in the connected device. The user should also be on the lookout for any red flags after connecting to the Airport WiFi. Usually, an official airport network leads to an authentication page with its own rules and regulations. Checking the page of any errors or the URL of the page can raise an indication that the network is a faux network created by a hacker lurking nearby.
The first step travelers must comply to is ensuring that they have connected to the official airport WiFi. After doing that, there are still ways in which their personal data can be compromised. It’s advisable to only visit sites with HTTPS encryption, as they offer more protection than the archaic HTTP websites. Being on a secure website doesn’t mean your browsing activity is hacker-proof but it makes it a lot harder to steal your information. While most websites that ask for a password is HTTPS enabled, a few that aren’t should be avoided at all cost on the public airport network.
Users can also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to add another layer of security. Connecting to a VPN encrypts all your data at the source, your computer, making it difficult for a third-party malicious hacker to steal them. According to Dror Liwer, the chief security officer for the cyber-security firm Coronet, “Airports are a fertile field because there’s a concentration of “high-value assets,” which include business travelers who may unwittingly open themselves up to an attack.” Most business travelers have to connect to a VPN in any case to access sensitive information, and normal users can also use a page from their book and create a VPN on their own.
The worst part about having your sensitive information stolen at an airport before boarding a flight – is that you don’t know about it till you land at your destination and receive several emails about unauthorized account access. Identity thieves and hackers have caused maximum damage while you were cruising mile-high. While these precautions don’t eliminate the risk, they can surely minimize them. Or if you are that concerned about using free public internet at the airport, you can always switch on your hotspot and use that instead.