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Free Wi-Fi? Beware of security risks

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.

It is estimated that the majority of UAE residents who go on holiday connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. In an earlier study 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.

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.