Traveling Abroad Can Put Your Personal Data at Risk, Says Security Expert

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.

Mainly because of press from work, 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 Europe, Russia, Latin America, Asia Pacific and the United States, 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 Wi-Fi rather than risk incurring roaming charges, despite the fact that doing so will expose them to risk.

Upon leaving the airport, nearly half of us (44%) are already online, with most (69%) connecting in order to let family and loved ones know they have arrived safely and nearly four-in-ten (39%) saying they connect mainly to download travel information.

Pressure from work

Pressure from work (38%) is also a strong factor, as is the desire to get up to speed on social media (34%). One in three (34%) 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%) connect to unsecured, free-to-use public access Wi-Fi networks in airport terminals, hotels, cafes or restaurants.

In addition, half (50%) forget their connected devices are crammed with highly personal and sensitive information because they use them for other things, such as taking pictures and using maps.

Risks

But away from home and trusted networks, the lack of regard for network security plays into the hands of cybercriminals. Almost one in five (18%) travelers has been a victim of cybercrime while away from home, compared to 6% 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%) and shop (55%) online over Wi-Fi while abroad.

Our vulnerability is also increased through the things we do more of online while abroad. For example, one in eight (13%) is more likely to post on social networks when abroad and one in seven (14%) says they shop online more using their credit card.

“I travel a lot,” says Eugene Kaspersky, Chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab. “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.”

Kaspersky related that he uses 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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