by Mike Ianiri, Equinox
When you’re travelling for business or pleasure there’s a good chance you’ll think of using the hotel WiFi.
The hotel industry is one of the top sectors to suffer data breaches – it’s a cyber criminal’s dream with the amount of information hotels often hold: your name, address, passport details, car registration plates and credit card details etc.
Once checked in, you connect to the WiFi network and are required to enter personal details. Have you ever considered where this is collected? Most Guest WiFI access has a software that sits behind the access points and stores all this information. If a cyber criminal gains access to the backend, this can be potentially catastrophic.
So, what can you do to protect yourself when needing to access hotel and other public WiFi spots?
Connect via your mobile
Public WiFi networks are rarely secure and often used by hackers to gather data they shouldn’t. We recommend that you connect to the internet via your mobile phone, wherever possible. Use your data allowance, and the security built into your phone, rather than a public network. Mobile data is becoming cheaper which helps:
- Vodafone has a 20Gb data SIM only contract for £20 per month
- O2 are selling 32Gb of data for £26 per month
The only issue comes when you cannot get a good enough signal, often due to the structure of the building.
Use a VPN connection
If you cannot get a secure internet connection, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection is the next best thing. This allows you to connect to your company network by creating a secure “tunnel” between your laptop and your network. This stops others from accessing your data.
To create a VPN, talk to your IT department. They are likely to have their preferred software application for this, or if you want to use the Windows VPN tool, you will need to know the names and IP addresses of the server(s) you wish to connect to.
When you do log into a public WiFi, it will sometimes ask you if you wish to be discovered, or visible, to others on the network. Always say No. While you’re at it, turn off file and print sharing so that nobody can send or receive files from you across the WiFi.
Use an RFID Shield
Public places are great hunting grounds for thieves looking for card data. With near-field communication (NFC) technology, they can skim data without having to get hold of the card. They simply need to get close to it. Passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) protection comes in the form of a shield that slides into your wallet next to your cards. There are also wallets with this tech built into the material. More active solutions, using other radio frequencies, will actively block the signal used by the skimmers.
Keep devices close
You’re in a hotel, or coffee shop, and you need the loo. Your devices will be safe if you leave them for two minutes…. won’t they? Don’t risk it! Take them with you. Inconvenient but much better than explaining to your boss that there’s been a data breach and it needs to be reported to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) within 72 hours.
GDPR and data security have only made it more important to protect your data. However, the biggest issue is not the fines or the paperwork; it’s the loss of your company’s intellectual property and the loss of trust from your clients that will hurt the most. None of these steps are difficult with a little forethought, so let’s ensure your data is safe – and you have a great trip!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Ianiri is Director of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Mike works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. He is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business. www.equinoxcomms.co.uk