Have you ever found yourself slightly nervous just before getting onto a flight - not necessarily because of flying, but because of the fact that you will not be connected online for a few hours? Given the technology age we live in, our smart devices and the ability to connect to the internet instantly has become the way of life for many. Just consider how quickly we tend to connect to any available Wi-Fi, to be able to download updates, check messages, email and social media? In fact, research shows that 77% of South African travelers connect to public Wi-Fi when abroad.
The convenience of Wi-Fi has changed the meaning of instance online access today, especially considering that data costs are still on the higher end of the scale locally and of course, very costly when abroad. Wi-Fi and its availability, which is growing in public areas as demand for it increases, takes the worry out of be disconnected and enables us to enjoy online access, anywhere, often without even realising it. This means we can continue to buy, sell, bank, work, and socialise online; as we continue to embrace the world of digital, all while on the move and from any location in the world.
However, when it comes to connecting to Wi-Fi, are you Wi-Fi smart or do you tend to just connect without second thought, which could open you up to the very real dangers the world of Wi-Fi brings?
Despite the benefits Wi-Fi offers, a recent survey* commissioned by Kaspersky Lab in South Africa showed that 52% of respondents are very concerned about their data being intercepted when using Wi-Fi. It is good to see a good portion of users expressing such high concern, especially considering that open Wi-Fi networks are also used by cybercriminals for malicious intent. However, what is worrying, is that the same survey highlighted that 20% of respondents are only somewhat concerned about this risk and 16% stated that they are not concerned at all.
An open Wi-Fi connection may mean you can connect and start doing the things you need to on your devices, however it can also mean that cybercriminals can gain access to your device and the plethora of information/images and data you store on it. In fact, more often than not, cybercriminals use a public Wi-Fi space as an ‘easy’ opportunity to steal confidential information from devices – information like passwords, pictures from social media or even instant messages. Everything about an open Wi-Fi connection puts you at risk.
It is with this in mind, that as eager as you are to gain internet access, you can practice being Wi-Fi ‘smart’ over ‘connect happy’, and follow these tips to ensure your safety:
Trusting open Wi-Fi
You must ask yourself whether you can really trust the network’s legitimacy when it comes to open Wi-Fi. Be aware that criminals may create a Wi-Fi hotspot and name it something plausible to you, as such “McDonalds open wifi” or “Hotel Guest 3.” If you must use the network and connect to Wi-Fi, do so as safely as possible – this means avoiding visiting sites that require a login and, most importantly, avoid any financial transactions. No banking, no shopping.
Rather use 3G cards if viable
If you are at an airport or at a coffee shop and need to gain access to the online world, rather look to use a 3G Internet card, as this already has the necessary protection in place. Alternatively, if you do want to use the Wi-Fi in public venues, make sure that the Wi-Fi network is password protected.
Secure your devices with Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
VPNs provide a secure connection over the Internet between your device and the websites you visit. This means it encrypts the data exchanged across that connection. This can assist in protecting your online activities while they are connected to the Internet as well as the content you are accessing – keeping your data safe from cybercriminals.
Make use of a reliable security solution
Make sure all of your devices are protected by a rigorous anti-malware and security solution that aims to protect your data and alerts you to any suspicious websites or open Wi-Fi networks, you may be trying to access. And ensure that the security solution on your devices is updated as regularly as possible.
As we embrace the digital and connected lifestyle, and connect for convenience, we must take the time to note these realities and practice caution. It pays to be alert, aware and suspicious with your electronic life - be Wi-Fi ‘smart’.