On the eve of the holiday travel season, the FBI’s Oregon field office is warning travelers about the danger of letting their computers and devices automatically connect to open WiFi networks.
Many devices have a feature that allows them to automatically scan for, and join, open WiFi networks. While convenient, the feature represents a world of potential problems, as there is no way to verify the safety and security of an unknown hotspot. There could be hackers scanning traffic on a third-party, open network, or the network itself could be hosted by bad actors.
The FBI’s post outlined a number of common sense precautions travelers should take:
“Now is not the time you want to talk about cyber security, but we do have a few travel tips to keep you safe while you are on the go.
- Don’t allow your phone, computer, tablet, or other devices to auto-connect to a free wireless network while you are away from home. This is an open invitation for bad actors to access your device. They then can load malware, steal your passwords and PINs, or even take remote control of your contacts and camera.
- If you do need to connect to a public hotspot – such as at an airport or hotel – make sure to confirm the name of the network and the exact login procedures. Your goal is to avoid accidentally connecting to a fraudster’s WiFi that they are trying to make look legit.
- If you absolutely have to use an unsecured hotspot, avoid doing anything sensitive like accessing your bank account. A hacker would love your user ID and password – don’t give it to them.
- Related to the above point, using your own secured hotspot from your phone is generally a better option.
- If you are having guests stay at your home, consider setting up a separate WiFi account for them. That way, if they are running unsecured devices on your network, you can segregate their vulnerabilities from your sensitive data.
- Disable location services – including those on your social media accounts and in your camera settings – that tell people where you are.
- Finally, as hard as this may be in a world of oversharing, consider NOT pushing out pictures and posts about your grand adventures. Yes, your kids are adorable and Christmas morning was the best ever – but do you really want to tell the world that you are away from home?
“From the FBI family to your family, enjoy your travels and stay safe.”
The FBI’s recommendations are solid tips that should be followed at all times.