Watch Those Unprotected Connections

By Ciara Hamagishi

Access Key

You would never shout out “I’m a wealthy American!” to a crowded European shopping street.  You probably wouldn’t hand your financial documents to your taxi driver for safe-keeping either.  When it comes to the “what not to do’s” of travel, most of us get it.  The question is whether your online know-how abroad is up to the same level?

It makes sense that you want to connect with people back home when you’re travelling.  Internet cafes and free wi-fi at your hotel or the airport can seem like lifesavers.  The problem is that we lose some of our common sense when we haven’t been on Facebook in two weeks!

When you are logging online don’t use the internet like you do at home.  Be aware that security on some connections may not be what you are used to.  Even if you are using an encrypted site like your home bank, if the connection is not encrypted your personal information is vulnerable.  A concept known as electronic eavesdropping (sniffing) is when someone grabs your data over these unsecure networks and downloads it.

Some more things you need to know:

  • There is a possibility the internet log-in page could be a scam to capture your personal and credit card information.  (phishing scam) Be aware of that.
  • Cyber criminals have software that can scan airwaves for unprotected transmissions.
  • If it’s easy for you to log-on to an unprotected internet connection, it’s just as easy for someone else to be log-on with bad intentions.

A lot of people will read this and think I could just as easily get my wallet stolen.  This is true.  But you are aware of that risk and will be looking out for pickpockets and sketchy situations.  The moral of this article is to be a little more conscious that there are online risks abroad, even at your hotel computer.

What you can do:

  • Don’t leave smart phones or laptops set to “connect to available network” or similar settings when roaming.  Only connect to networks you know are secure.
  • Make sure you don’t have same passwords for all of your accounts so that if one is compromised the problem doesn’t get worse.
  • Try to only log onto sites that hold limited personal information.  (Such as certain social media sites or personal e-mails)
  • Educate your kids or less technically savvy travelers about how internet connections are different abroad and the risks of unprotected connections.

Ciara Hamagishi