UAE travellers warned: Be wary of hackers when using Wi-fi hotspots

Free Wi-fi may be a blessing to people who travel, but it could potentially expose users to hackers

Dubai: With the summer travel season in full swing, holidaymakers from the UAE have been advised to be extra careful when using public Wi-Fi networks abroad, as they could be potentially exposing themselves to hackers.

Free public hotspots are everywhere – in the mall, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and airports, enticing consumers to enjoy mobile convenience without added cost.

To many people traveling, free Wi-Fi is a blessing. It helps them get in touch with family and friends, update their social media posts, access maps or hotel confirmations or make last-minute bookings while they wait to board the aircraft. However, while the service is free of charge, it could spell a lot of trouble for unsuspecting users.

Public Wi-Fi networks are not always secure. Since a lot of users share a public hotspot, it makes it easy for cybercriminals to steal sensitive information, including passwords to personal email, banking credentials and other valuable data. Hackers could also be setting up “free” Wi-Fi hotspots to pry into personal data.

“Cybercriminals often spy on public Wi-Fi networks and intercept data that is transferred across links. In this way, the criminal can access users’ banking credentials, account password and other valuable information,” Amin Hasbini, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told Gulf News.

It is estimated that the majority of UAE residents who go on holiday connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. In an earlier study conducted by Kaspersky involving 11,850 respondents in different markets around the world, eight in ten people (82 per cent) access Wi-Fi networks in airport terminals and hotels.

The study found that by the time travellers are leaving the airport, nearly half (44 per cent) have already gone online. A huge majority of them (69 per cent) choose to connect in order to inform their family that they have arrived safely.

“The numbers should be close to or similar to those in the UAE, as the UAE’s citizens are tech savvy and travel frequently,” he added.

Users are highly encouraged to be extra careful when accessing hotspots by refraining from conducting any financial transactions or logging in to their personal accounts in social networks, including their mailbox.

Below are some tips from Kaspersky for UAE residents to stay secure while they go out and about:

1. Remember that any mobile device can be at risk

2. Treat all Wi-Fi links with suspicion and don’t just assume that the Wi-Fi link is legitimate. It could be a bogus link that has been set up by a cybercriminal that’s trying to capture valuable, personal information from unsuspecting users. Question everything. Don’t connect to an unknown or unrecognised wireless access point.

3. Don’t conduct financial transactions or share sensitive information on public Wi-Fi.

4. Use your mobile phone data if you need to share any sensitive information.

5. Make sure all of your devices are protected by a rigorous anti-malware and security solution – and ensure that it’s updated as regularly as possible.


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