With Christmas just a stone’s throw away, it has been estimated that over 113 million travelers (opens in new tab) are getting ready to set out for their holiday destination – and that’s just in the US! Even more are expected to be on the move around the rest of the world.
Traveling often means passing long hours waiting around an airport or station, in a car, or on a plane, ferry or train. People are then more likely to connect to public Wi-Fi to stream media, watch YouTube videos or scroll on their social media feed without eating up all their data. That’s where one of the best VPN services comes handy and is a must this holiday season.
A VPN is software that spoofs your real IP address, while encrypting all the data leaving your device. This means that hackers looking to exploit a public connection to intrude into your smartphone, tablet or laptop will be hindered to do so.
Sadly, a recent survey shows that most people are still not using such a security software when connecting on a risky Wi-Fi. Keep reading as we explain everything you need to know in more detail.
41% of respondents don’t use a VPN at all
Ask any IT or cybersecurity expert, and you are likely to get the same answer: the era when just business VPNs were a necessity is long gone. Under the current digital landscape, every user needs to use a secure VPN to protect their online life. And, that’s especially true for those regularly connecting to open internet hotspots.
Unfortunately, it turns out that most of us are still not following this important privacy-friendly practice.
In a recent survey conducted on 1,000 American users (opens in new tab) aged 18 or older, more than half respondents (56%) said that they are not using a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi. Even worse, 41% don’t use such security software at all.
While the danger is looming all year round, the risks get even higher during the holiday season as people are more likely to access the internet from different countries and/or public networks.
That’s why cybersecurity firm Lookout (opens in new tab) behind security, privacy, and identity theft protection solutions like its antivirus software Lookout Security, put together a list of the most common risks for travelers to keep in mind if you’re on the move this festive season.
Here are the main takeaways:
- Beware of dodgy Wi-Fi connections: That’s true, airports and train stations always offer their own free legit network to visitors. However, hackers might hide behind a similar malicious network to trick distracted travelers and steal their credentials. Beware of names like ‘Free_Airport_Internet’ and opt out the option for automatically connecting to nearby networks.
- Using public USB charger stations can be dangerous: Yes, also public USB stations can be easily exploited by cybercriminals to infiltrate your device. Try to avoid crowded areas. The same goes with using USB cords that belonged to strangers.
- Don’t be fooled by travel related phishing campaigns: As your holiday is getting closer, you’re likely to receive updates by emails or SMS. Unfortunately, hackers can also use travel related phishing scams to try to scam you. Be suspicious of messages that push you to click on dodgy links or try to offer you travel deals too good to be true.
How a VPN can help
As we mentioned above, public Wi-Fi can easily be exploited by malicious actors looking to steal your data. By simply downloading and switching on your VPN, you’ll create a layer of protection around your most sensitive information. Then you can just relax during your vacation time without being worried about your privacy.
Reliable VPN services are also essential for browsing the web anonymously in any circumstances and preventing nosy governments and malicious actors from accessing your data. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re heading on holiday to a country with invasive surveillance practices in place.
As for how it works, a VPN is the perfect tool for accessing blocked social media platforms, apps and websites. That’s also really handy to keep up with your favorite TV shows when abroad or, again, to bypass the strict online censorship that some countries enforced within their borders.
It’s worth noting that authoritarian governments might block VPN usage. This makes it vital, even for travelers visiting such nations, to opt for a service integrated with obfuscation technology to evade these blocks.