Europe’s top cybercrime police force, Europol recently warned of the increasing danger of using free public Wi-Fi. With cybercrime becoming more sophisticated, criminals are able to set up rogue Wi-Fi public hotspots, complete with familiar names to reassure people, and steal data and security details from unsuspecting users. More alarming is that cyber-criminals can actually intercept and strip people’s sensitive data from a legitimate free public Wi-Fi and even connections in place such as coffee shops.
For this purpose attackers don’t have to reach deep into their bag of tricks to find their tool of choice - the man-in the middle attack. The cyber-criminal hijacks the connection between a Wi-Fi user and the hotspot, an easy task, as public Wi-Fi service is freely accessible and often unencrypted. Afterwards the intruder, without the user noticing, can read all the data transmitted between the user and the hotspot, such as websites, messages and passwords. People who travel, and in particular those who travel internationally for business, need to stay connected wherever they are. With mobile data roaming charges so high, especially outside of the EU, using free public Wi-Fi is, for some, a quick-fix option.
But there are alternatives for the international traveller. Airport and hotel Wi-Fi is a safer way to stay connected but of course you are limited to a fixed location. Even if you do piggy back onto a Wi-Fi connection in your hotel or at the airport, in some cases there are cost implications. Vice President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, recently tweeted her anger at being charged €6 per hour to access Wi-Fi at Dusseldorf airport. You can argue that airports need to pay for the infrastructure to deliver the service but in 2014 shouldn’t connectivity be at least affordable?
It is a similar situation in hotels. While these establishments are increasingly moving to offer free Wi-Fi as standard there are still hotels that charge, especially those popular with business travellers. A recent report by The London Toolkit revealed two thirds of the 30 hotels in and around the London Heathrow airport area charge between £3 (€3.62) and £16 (€19.35)1 for 24 hours Wi-Fi access. Some even charge by the hour. Of course, these charges aren’t just exclusive to hotels near to airports; the issue exists around the world in every major city.
So which Wi-Fi to go? That is the question, and completely up to the individual and businesses, but there is a third option available for international travellers to consider: your personal mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. More flexible than public or airport Wi-Fi and safer through secure mobile network encryption you can stay connected whenever and wherever you are, safely. With the right service provider it can, at the same time, keep your data roaming charges in control.
1prices as of Jan 2014