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How to use WiFi networks safely during biz travel

Having access to WiFi while on a business trip means that travellers can improve traveller productivity, and keep them in touch with their families back home. But using public WiFi, especially at airports and hotels, can pose a significant risk to travellers and their respective corporations.

Kris Budnik, cyber lead for PwC Africa, says hotels around the world are in the spotlight due to recent, high-profile security breaches. “The last two years have been particularly worrisome for the hotel industry, with a number of high-profile breaches taking place and if we look at this trend it is not going to get better,” he says.

PwC’s 2018 Global State of Information Security Survey of 9 500 executives in 122 countries, showed that the top sources of security breaches at organisations were current employees (30%), former employees (27%), and unknown hackers (23%).

Coronet, a company that provides security solutions for companies’ cloud applications, devices, and communications over public networks, recently released findings showing the risks of some of America’s busiest airports. According to Coronet, San Diego airport has the least secure public WiFi.

But while the hospitality and aviation industries grapple with improving the way they handle cyber security and personal data risks, travellers also need to be careful.

Germán Guillermo Castro, co-ordinating security manager, Middle East, North-East and Southern Africa, for International SOS, says that all public WiFi networks should be deemed insecure and, as a rule, should be used with caution.

High-risk activities while on public WiFi networks include anything where a traveller will be required to enter a password, or other sensitive information such as online banking, adding that using passwords that are already saved in your browser are generally more secure than entering the password.

He says that if a corporate needs to access a company’s intranet, they should preferably only do so if using a VPN, or virtual private network, which masks the computer’s IP address, creating an additional layer of security. Some companies actually require staff to use VPNs if they access a company’s intranet from public networks.

Castro suggests that corporate travellers take the following precautions, especially if they are travelling in an area where information surveillance by authorities is known to be high, such as Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, or Russia:

If non-essential, leave your device at home.

Remove highly sensitive information from devices.

Have your system checked by your IT department prior to, and after, travel.

Have your essential devices on you at all times.

If you leave your hotel room, store your device in the safe.

Purchase a tracking application, or remote data protection software, in case your laptop is lost or stolen.

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