For anyone who does lot’s of travelling the internet has literally transformed their lives. Now instead of leaving their personal and private lives behind, you can keep in touch from virtually anywhere on the planet. You can converse with friends, pay your bills and even watch your local football team from thousand of miles away. Last week I sat in a hotel room in Istanbul and was able to watch BBC news live on my laptop, no lag, no delays – a perfect virtual stream. Not so many years ago, I would have been reading a three day copy of the Daily Mirror bought at ten times the cover price in an airport kiosk.
Yet now I can set up direct debits to pay my bills, order my groceries for delivery on my return and even arrange my car insurance. There’s very little which you can’t now facilitate with some sort of smart device and an internet connection any where in the world. However all this comes at a risk, operating financial transactions from anywhere in the world sounds wonderful but it also opens up the possibility of digital crime. If you can access your bank account from a hotel room anywhere in the world then potentially anyone else can with the same information. Usually all they require is a username and password or access to your email account – the crime can be committed anywhere.
Here in lies the risk, the internet is inherently insecure – the vast majority of it’s communication operates in clear text and is easily intercepted with simple tools and a modicum of technical knowledge. Worst still any access point you use to access the internet can potentially view your details even across secure connections like HTTPS logins. Who runs that hotel wifi system? How about that free wi-fi you used in that coffee shop for ten minutes? Every time you use one of these systems to access any sort of secure site, is basically the equivalent of asking a stranger to look after your wallet or purse for a few minutes.
So basically if you have to use these unknown internet access points, firstly try and limit them to big well, known brands. The commercial wi-fi in an international airport is going to be less risky than accessing through a back street bar or coffee shop. Try not to use any of these connections for sensitive access, stay well clear of webmail logins, or internet banking or financial sites like Paypal. These are what cyber criminals are looking for and if they have access to that particular access point then you’re handing them the login details directly.
Sometimes though it’s difficult, for people travelling a lot – you sometimes have to access your bank account or login remotely to your email. For these situations there is a way of drastically reducing the risk of losing your login credentials – use a VPN. This is a Virtual Private Network and it established a secure, encrypted tunnel which you can use to login to sensitive sites. They are easy to use and add an extra layer of security to your connection, making your login details and passwords unreadable even via a compromised wireless access point.