Munich. Today, the Internet is virtually a must – even on holidays. Friends and family are kept informed by holiday greetings sent via messenger services or video phone services, photos uploaded to social networks, and – in some cases – even detailed travel blogging. However, many Internet aficionados tend to forget that public hotspots in particular involve various risks.
Users of public Internet connections abroad should keep in mind that their private data are not necessarily protected. While the level of data protection in Germany and the EU is generally high, in other countries it can be considerably lower. “Users should always regard public hotspots as unsecured networks. It is virtually impossible for non-professionals to judge whether a network is secure or not”, explains Marcel Mangel, IT Security Specialist at TÜV SÜD Sec-IT. Thanks to off-the-shelf tools and apps, hackers need little experience to engage in hotspot snooping or even set up fake hotspots. Security-sensitive actions, including online banking, should never be carried out using public hotspots.
Encryption is important for the transmission of personal details and other sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, PINs, passwords or emails. Users seeking to assess the level of security can contact the provider and enquire exactly what security actions have been implemented. ”Users surfing the web should make sure to call up web pages directly by entering ‘https://’ instead of ‘http://’ or should use the popular browser extension HTTPS Everywhere. This at least guarantees encrypted data transmission“, says Marcel Mangel.
If access codes are printed on the café menu or posted next to the reception desk, beware. Users should insist on an individual broadband or hotspot key. Generic keys involve higher risks of other users reading mails and perhaps spying out private messages and information. It is also a fallacy to assume that hotspots that are subject to charges offer more security – this is not necessarily true. “The Wi-Fi interface on mobile devices should be switched off and only activated if users wish to establish a connection. By choosing this approach, you can avoid your device accidentally connecting with a network that might be unsecured”, advises Marcel Mangel. Regular public hotspot users should consider securing the communication itself via a VPN connection, which still offers the highest level of security.