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Connecting abroad

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 an IT security product firm.

The research, which polled 11,850 people from across Europe, Russia, Latin America, Asia Pacific and the US, found that cyber-crime 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 Wi-Fi rather than risk incurring roaming charges, despite the fact that doing so will expose them to risk, says Kaspersky Lab.

On leaving the airport, nearly half of us (44 per cent) are already online, with most (69 per cent) connecting in order to let family and loved ones know they have arrived safely, and nearly four-in-ten (39 per cent) saying they connect mainly to download travel information. Pressure from work (38 per cent) is also a strong factor, as is the desire to get up to speed on social media (34 per cent). One in three (34 per cent) states, 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. Eight-in-ten people (82 per cent) connect to unsecured, free-to-use public access Wi-Fi networks in airport terminals, hotels, cafes or restaurants. In addition, half (50 per cent) forget their connected devices are crammed with highly personal and sensitive information because they use them for so many other things, such as taking pictures and using maps. Away from home, and trusted networks, the lack of regard for network security plays into the hands of cyber-criminals. Almost one in five (18 per cent) travelers have been a victim of cybercrime while away from home, compared to 6 per cent 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. Around half of the survey’s respondents say they bank (61 per cent) and shop (55 per cent) online over Wi-Fi while abroad. Vulnerability is also increased through the things we do more of online while abroad. For example, one in eight (13 per cent) are more likely to post on social networks when abroad, and one in seven (14 per cent) say they shop online more using their credit card.

Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab, said: “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.”


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