Travellers may risk it all by going online: Kaspersky

Whether it’s finding new Pokémon in a different country or simply calling for an Uber, most travellers are putting themselves and their data at risk in their urge to connect to the internet.

Using unsecured Wi-Fi has been highlighted as a particularly risky activity, according to antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab. Nearly half of travellers polled in a recent study put themselves at risk by accessing public networks as soon as they land.

The research, which polled 11,850 people globally, found that cybercrime is commonplace when abroad. Almost one in five travellers has been a victim of cybercrime while away from home, compared to 6 per cent of those who have faced real-life crime.

As ever more essential travel information – from maps and hotel confirmations to check-in details and boarding passes – is stored online, international travellers often have no choice but to connect upon arrival.

On leaving the airport, 44 per cent of travellers are already online, with 69 per cent connecting in order to let family and loved ones know they have arrived safely, and nearly 39 per cent saying they connect mainly to download travel information. Pressure from work is also a strong factor with 38 per cent feeling obligated to stay connected, as is the desire to get up to speed on social media, conveyed by 34 per cent of the survey respondents. Thirty-four per cent simply state that it is instinctive to go online as soon as possible.

In fact, the firm’s data shows that that our digital habits barely change while we’re abroad, even though we may be more exposed to unsecure public networks. Sixty-one per cent of the survey’s respondents say they bank and 55 per cent claim to shop online over Wi-Fi while abroad.

However, the security firm cautions against connecting while other people may be listening in. Eighty-two per cent of the people connect to unsecured, free-to-use public access Wi-Fi networks in airport terminals, hotels, cafes or restaurants, its data shows.

The solution? To use a VPN, says Eugene Kaspersky, Chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab. A frequent traveller himself, he – of course – recommends a Kaspersky product, but says it is also important to make sure your software is up to date, while not trusting anyone over the internet, or indeed, any public Wi-Fi network.

In other words, play safe every single time.