Many travelers use the airport’s free Wi-Fi while waiting to board their plane. Even though it looks harmless, the use of Wi-Fi is vulnerable to cybercriminal attacks. Claudia Gualdi, Travel Intelligence Data Lead for Riskline, a Copenhagen-based company that provides risk assessments for hundreds of travel destinations around the world, said that free airport Wi-Fi can save on travel budgets because cellular data is often too expensive when traveling abroad .
However, he cautioned that no public Wi-Fi network is truly secure, especially since it can be accessed by anyone. “At airports, the risk is even greater because thousands of travelers are navigating at the same time on the same network,” he said, as reported by the Daily Mail, Sunday, September 10 2023.
Gualdi said it’s difficult to know how often these attacks occur
but a survey conducted by Forbes Advisor earlier this year found that 40 percent of respondents experienced information leaks while using public Wi-Fi. Of this group, 23 percent reported that the incident occurred at the airport.
Gualdi explained that users of unsecured airport Wi-Fi are vulnerable to various types of cyber threats such as identity and bank information theft, unauthorized access to email, password theft, or malware from infected downloads.
Additionally, there is also the risk of more complex attacks. One example is a “man-in-the-middle” attack, which allows hackers to eavesdrop on communications. Another attack is a “sniffing attack”, where unprotected data can extract from a device by hackers.
Verify airport Wi-Fi security
Gualdi said it’s difficult to verify the security of every Wi-Fi, but there are a few tips to keep in mind.
First, make sure you are logged in to the correct Wi-Fi. Travelers should ensure that they are connecting to an authorized service, by asking airport staff for the exact name,” he said.
This will help travelers avoid attacks.
A hacker could create a Wi-Fi connection with a name similar to the official name, to attract people to connect to their network. Adrianus Warmenhoven, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, explains that if a traveler connects to the hotspot. All personal information (including credit card details, personal emails, and various credentials) will sent to hackers. Another tip is to prevent devices from automatically connecting to hotspots. Gualdi said this can done by disabling features such as “auto connect” for public hotspots.
“As an extra precaution, [Wi-Fi] networks can be removed from Wi-Fi settings after use, so that the device does not automatically reconnect in the future,” he said.
Gualdi said it’s safer to connect to hotspots that require a password if one is available.
Another way to protect devices is to use a VPN that hides IP addresses and encrypts all data sent or received over the internet. Additionally, he recommends installing antivirus software on the device for increased protection. While this may not be an option for travelers at overseas airports, Gualdi says if you can, use cellular data instead of using free networks.
Choose a safe site
When connecting to airport Wi-Fi, Gualdi suggests visiting websites that have “https” and a padlock icon at the beginning of the URL as this means the connection is safe and secure for the user. The information sent is also encrypt and cannot be simply retrieve. Working with public networks can also expose important credentials and data if workers use work platforms, send emails or important documents,” he said. A 2019 Norton WI-Fi Risk Reports survey recorded thousands of adults using public Wi-Fi hotspots in 15 countries
found that travelers don’t think twice about connecting to whatever network gets them online. More than half or 53 percent even admitted that they could not differentiate between safe and unsafe networks. Another Norton study, the LifeLock Cyber Safety Insights Report, released last spring, determined that two-thirds of Americans are willing to accept risks to their online privacy in exchange for convenience, including when at the airport.