The hidden dangers of free public Wi-Fi: what travelers need to know

As many as 58% of Americans use free public Wi-Fi while traveling, according to new research by Saily, an eSIM provider. While this is a convenient and cheap way to use the internet while traveling, it also results in certain cybersecurity issues.

“Multiple cybersecurity issues are associated with public Wi-Fi,” says Vykintas Maknickas, head of product strategy at Nord Security. “Man-in-the-middle attacks, during which bad actors can intercept the communication between your phone or laptop and the Wi-Fi network so they can eavesdrop on your activity, steal data, or install malware are just one example. session hijacking — an attack during which criminals can steal session cookies and gain unauthorized access to users’ accounts — is another.”

Dangers to public Wi-Fi

In addition to the abovementioned types of attacks, hackers can also use different types of techniques to abuse public Wi-Fi. For example, they can set up rogue hotspots — fake Wi-Fi networks that mimic legitimate ones. When a user connects to these rogue hotspots, attackers can gain access to the device and steal data.

58% of Americans use free public Wi-Fi while traveling — why does this alarm security experts?

Another type of attack is called an evil twin attack — similar to rogue hotspots, an evil twin attack involves setting up a network with the same name as a legitimate public Wi-Fi network, such as a hotel’s or cafe’s. Users may unknowingly connect to the “evil twin” and give attackers the ability to intercept their communications.

Finally, cybercriminals can use special software to “sniff” the data being transmitted over a public Wi-Fi network — this type of attack is simply called “sniffing.”

Time spent online while traveling

When looking into what exactly people use the internet for when traveling, the Saily survey revealed that overall, American travelers spend a significant time online. Only around a quarter spend less than two hours online daily, with the majority exceeding this limit.

When it comes to online activity, 56% people say that the majority of their time online is spent on communication and 50% on social media sharing.

A staggering 42% use the internet for money management — making payments and transactions.

The hidden dangers of free public Wi-Fi: what travelers need to know

“Particularly when handling money-related tasks, I’d strongly encourage using mobile networks instead of public Wi-Fi. If leaked, such sensitive information can be especially damaging to the victim,” says Vykintas Maknickas, head of product strategy at Nord Security.

What do experts recommend?

While it’s understandable that travelers seek out the most convenient and cheapest options to access the internet, Maknickas recommends considering alternative internet options.

“Mobile internet is more secure, especially when considering such activities as online banking,” says Vykintas Maknickas, head of product strategy at Nord Security. “Today there are also affordable options, such as eSIMs or international data packages, so users don’t have to compromise security for a lower price.”

However, for those considering using public Wi-Fi, he recommends taking these steps to protect the connection:

  • Avoid accessing sensitive information — refrain from accessing banking sites, making online purchases, or entering sensitive information while on public Wi-Fi — it’s better to use mobile data for such tasks.
  • Forget the network — after using a public Wi-Fi network, choose the option “forget the network” on your device to prevent automatic reconnection in the future.
  • Update software — ensure your operating system, browsers, and applications are up to date with the latest security patches.
  • Use a VPN (virtual private network) — a VPN encrypts your internet connection, making it much harder for attackers to intercept your data.

About Saily

Saily is an affordable, user-friendly, and sustainable eSIM service that helps people to manage mobile and internet connections from anywhere in the world without worry. Saily offers 24/7 instant customer support, flexible plans, and global coverage. Saily was created by the experts behind NordVPN — the advanced security and privacy app. For more information:

If you want to subscribe to Saily you can follow this link. Alternatively, you can check out this NordVPN deal, which lets you get Saily for free.

This is a sponsored post. Sponsorship is a form of advertising. The views and opinions expressed in this article are from the sponsor and might not reflect our own.

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