Planning to hit the road for spring break? Getting ready to travel with your laptop for leisure or business? Whatever your spring break plans are, you have to be careful of potential cyberattacks that could comprise your data and security.

As important as it is to implement safe cyber practices at home, it’s even more important to be aware of cybersecurity risks while traveling. Whenever you travel, there’s always the possibility of you losing your laptop or smartphone or connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, leaving your data vulnerable to getting stolen or lost.

Why Public Wi-Fi Network Is a Hacker’s Goldmine

Approximately 24.7% of Wi-Fi hotspots around the world don’t use any encryption at all, according to a report from Kapersky Labs. This leaves your data vulnerable to hackers. A Wi-Fi hotspot is considered to be “secured” if it requires you to enter a password that conforms to the WPA2 or WPA standards for security codes.

Wi-Fi hotspots that are unsecured due to the absence of encrypted data connections and strong password validation procedures are just the first of the dangers lurking on your devices.

Hackers have several ways to target you on public Wi-Fi, such as:

Distributing malware

Hackers can easily plant malware on your devices, especially if you allow file-sharing over an unsecured Wi-Fi network.

Executing a man-in-the-middle attack

This type of cyber attack allows a malicious actor to insert him/herself into a conversation between two persons, impersonate both of them, and gain access to information that they were trying to send each other.

Launching rogue Wi-Fi hotspots

Hackers usually set up rogue hotspots that look like legitimate open hotspots. When you connect to a rogue hotspot, hackers can inject malware on your device or intercept your data.

Steps to Protect Yourself on Public Wi-Fi

Due to the security risks of free public Wi-Fi, you should use it with caution. Here are a few ways to keep yourself safe when using unsecured Wi-Fi network:

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Whether you’re connecting to a hotel hotspot or using airport Wi-Fi, a VPN will not only keep your data secure but also allow you to keep up with your favorite television shows from home by bypassing geographic restrictions. A VPN protects your connection by encrypting all your online activities, making it safe from intruders, no matter what Wi-Fi hotspot you connect to.

Turn off Automatic Wi-Fi Connection Feature

While connecting to public Wi-Fi is convenient, it is notoriously unsecured, especially in hotel and airport lounges. To keep your data safe, you should disable the automatic Wi-Fi connection feature on your laptop or smartphone and only connect to networks you have verified to be legitimate. Unless you’re currently using them, your device’s Bluetooth or file-sharing services, such as AirDrop, should always be disabled as well.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) requires you to provide a unique code when logging into your accounts, in addition to your password and username. The code itself is typically delivered via email or text message, making it much more difficult for cybercriminals to impersonate you and gain access to your account.

Patch and Protect

Before traveling, you should update all of your devices with the most recent software and operating systems. Also, make sure to install the latest security patches released by the software company. The more up-to-date your devices are, the less chance they have of getting hacked.

Don’t Give Away Too Much Information

Be very careful about signing up for a public Wi-Fi network if you are getting asked for a lot of personal information, such as your phone number or email address. If you really need to connect to public networks like this, stick to places you trust and consider using an alternative email address that is not your primary one.

While you may be looking for relaxation and rest, cybercriminals can turn your vacation into a nightmare if you are not careful. If you would like to learn more about protecting your data while you are traveling, contact one of our experts today.