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Explainers

Watch your WiFi (and get a VPN)

May 14th, 2021

You’re going to be traveling again soon. Here’s a reminder: Watch your wifi. And while you’re at it, start using a VPN.

Summer is approaching and pandemic restrictions are lifting. You and your family will be on the move again, which means you’ll be connecting to the internet through unfamiliar networks. Be careful and watch your WiFi.

Using public and semi-public WiFi networks can leave you vulnerable to “man in the middle attacks.” These are ruses in which hackers use open, unprotected networks to intercept your online activity.

The WiFi offered to guests at airports, in cafes and in hotels is tantalizingly convenient, but it’s also a point of attack by cybercriminals bent on harvesting your personal data.

Phony networks

Hackers can spoof public WiFi networks, tricking you into thinking you are logging into a legitimate service to access the Internet. As TechRepublic put it, “In the case of a public WiFi attack, an attacker would need to be nearby and on the same network, or alternatively have placed a computer on the network capable of sniffing out traffic.” 

But the hacker doesn’t even need to be physically near you to pull off such an attack. “Plenty of strains of malware exist that can hijack traffic and inject malicious information wherever an infection spreads.”

What’s at stake is not just your privacy, but also the security of your finances. If hackers eavesdrop on your login and password when you do online banking, they’ve have access to your personal financial information. Obviously, not good.

What to do

It’s not always easy to watch your WiFi. That’s the trouble. Here are steps you can take to safeguard your private information against man in the middle attacks during travel:

* Update your device’s operating system (there may be a recent security patch).

* Use strong passwords to shield your logins, with a mixture of alphanumeric characters in upper and lower case. A password made out of the first letter of each word in a phrase that’s personally memorable to you will be hard for criminals to guess.

* Rely on a firewall on your computer and make sure it’s up-to-date.

* Use a virtual private network like Datacappy (offered by our sister company). A VPN encrypts the data flowing between your device and the Internet, creating a secure “tunnel” to the web.

The prospect of man in the middle attacks should give anyone pause when they’re about to connect to the Internet while traveling. But by following a few common sense safety protocols, you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. 

Always make sure your laptop, tablet and smartphone have been updated with the latest software fixes before you head out on vacation. Using a VPN will give you an added measure of security to safeguard your personal data.

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