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65% of Business Travellers Fear Public WiFi

Research conducted by a US travel company has found that business travellers are concerned about public WiFi security

Published by Claire Broadley

Public WiFi networks in hotel lobbies, coffee shops, and airports often provide very little security, and can easily be snooped on or hacked by other network users.

In the Asia Pacific region, Carlson Wagonlit Travel found that 72% of business people surveyed said that they weren’t confident their work data was secure.

The figure for travellers in Europe was 73%, while business travellers in the USA were most trusting of public WiFi; 54% had faith in the networks they used. Globally, 65% of travellers were nervous about using public WiFi networks.

 

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Alarmingly, 37% of the 2,000 respondents to the Carlson Wagonlit survey also said they’d downloaded a file from an unknown sender, or opened a phishing email.

What’s Wrong With Public WiFi?

Public WiFi is often a necessary evil for business travellers. Anyone that relies on internet access on the go is likely to use them during business trips, particularly in unfamiliar areas, or countries where they may not have mobile data.

Slowly, internet users are wising up to the risks of public WiFi; in part, the concerns are driving interest in VPNs, which encrypt data and hide it from prying eyes.  VPNs can also be beneficial in preventing snooping, where the network owner or ISP decides to keep track of each user’s activity.

However, it seems that businesses are not communicating the risk effectively to employees, and they are not providing the right advice to protect them. In many cases, they are not providing corporate VPNs, which would be an easy way to mitigate some of the risks of public WiFi.

 

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

The implications for business are huge if an employee falls foul of a hacker on an unsecured network, or picks up some malware while going about their business online. Not only can client confidentiality and intellectual property be compromised, but any viruses hidden on a business device could be transferred onto the corporate network upon returning to the office, potentially spreading it further.

The risks are potentially increased if the business has a Bring Your Own Device policy without adequate control over security software or third-party apps. Fake hotspots and code injection are both very real risks that can result in data theft or the collection of passwords and credit card details.

How to Stay Safe While Travelling

Public WiFi security was, overall, the second biggest issue raised in the survey, with 22% of respondents citing it as their main concern. Worries about device theft came in at 29%, while 9% worried about accidentally sharing confidential documents.

The best defence is a good antivirus and antimalware package, along with a VPN to ensure that your browsing is protected. This will allow business travellers to use any network -- including unsecure public WiFi -- because the VPN will push all data through an encrypted tunnel, hiding it from malicious users.