Stay Connected Safely When Using Free Wi-Fi in Airports, Malls, Public Areas

I am just back from my summer hols, and feeling absolutely refreshed! Holidays are so necessary to recharge you and give you the strength and mindset to face another year of slog and routine! More and more people are realizing this fact and making time to visit new places with family and friends. Everywhere I went there were a gaggle of tourists, enjoying the sights and sounds, clicking photos, chattering loudly and pouring over their phones/tabs to check if the picture came out well. This continued at airports too!!

As for me, I like to spend the time between security check and boarding making full use of the free Wifi at airports. I answer my mail, check my social media accounts and pen down memos to self. But what I do most is create photo albums to share later through Picasa.

I was amused to find that most people around me were doing the same. Adult and child alike seemed to be absorbed in their smartphones or tablets. While children were busy checking out videos and social media, adults seemed to be using to time to answer mails & complete pending jobs. I paid attention to what people around me were doing with their devices.

This is what I noted:

ð  Most families carry individual devices for each member

ð  Kids help out parents to log into the airport WiFi

ð  Many don’t know there were security software available for mobiles and tablets too (“Is there one?” asked quite a few)

ð  There was an underlying assumption that WiFi in airports must be secure

ð  Children use Bluetooth to share music & picture files with people in their group, which means file-sharing is turned on

Now I am worried. On one hand, it’s heartening to find that kids are more aware than their parents about secure environment and the Do’s and Don’ts of Internet usage. On the other, they tend to forget the rules and happily turn on file-sharing in an unsecured environment. Besides photograph and music, their smartphones, or the laptop or tabs of their parents’, would have other stored files as well. Further, a gentleman sitting next to me was checking his trading account and transferring money to his account from his bank. I tried shoulder-surfing and succeeded (He had given me an once-over and deduced I was harmless). Evidently, he was not aware of “Man in the Middle” attack.

Don’t trust that which comes free

Unsecured WiFis are akin to leaving your home unlocked with doors and windows wide open. Strangers can easily see what’s going on; even take what they want without your knowledge. Your phone and laptop have a lot of information stored, which can reveal a lot about you. These include your contact lists; personal and official e-mails; photos; social media accounts; bank statements etc. No way would you like these to fall in wrong hands.

As usual, there are certain rules to follow to ensure you can make full use of public WiFi without your security being compromised.

Tips For Safe Surfing At Airports, Malls, Cafes:

  • The number one option is always, check for availability of secured WiFi options, even if it costs a few bucks extra. You will need to use a password to access secured WiFi. But if you do have to use an open WiFi, check each account and immediately log out of it. Don’t keep too many tabs open at the same time. Do not click on the “remember password” option either.
  • Next, check that you have actually logged on to an authentic free WiFi. Check network name
  • Be wary of the “Man in The Middle Attack”. This attack refers to stealing of data midair. Therefore, use only those websites that start with “https” in the address-bar.
  • If your browser or security software warns you that the site you are entering has malware or is not secure (my McAfee Site Advisor is a boon that way), better not proceed
  • As far as possible, avoid conducting any financial transactions or banking activities.
  • Also, avoid sending e-mails containing sensitive information that’s not encrypted
  • Turn off Bluetooth, geo-tagging and file-sharing services on your phones, laptops and tablets.
  • Ensure you device doesn’t automatically connect to Wi-Fi hot spots. Enable manual operations
  • As soon as you are done, turn off your wireless connection.
  • This is something we all know but errors do occur. Do not leave your device unattended, even when you go to fetch that coffee or throw a paper in the bin. Many leave their devices at charging ports and take calls/stroll around. Not a wise thing to do
  • You do not realize this but your security software is a blessing when using a public WiFi. It identifies malware, probable virus source, and presence of hackers. So I highly recommend you use advanced security on ALL devices. You can blindly depend on products like McAfee Total Protection and McAfee Mobile Security.

I sincerely hope you keep these points in mind when you log on to a free WiFi the next time you travel. After all, you have not only to protect your devices and data but also set an example of safety that your children will copy and practice. They will also consider you a tech-whizz with whom they can discuss their net-related problems. Now isn’t that a big gain?

Suggested reading:

Tech Talker gives a very simple but clear example to explain the man in the middle attack.

Stay safe, stay happy!


Give Your Children The Digital Lock – Teach Them To Protect Personal Data

Recently, a Mother was sharing with me how her child started receiving calls and friendship request from complete strangers. The family was worried and puzzled as to how her phone number had become public. Then one day, a caller informed that he had got the number on an online dating service. Investigation revealed that the girl had participated in an online quiz and she had shared her mail id and cell number to get detailed results!

This is not a one-off case. According to the findings of the McAfee “Tweens And Technology Report 2013”, 41% of the tweens surveyed share information about themselves over FB! This is just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion, considering the huge Indian tween and teen population that go online everyday!

A Platter Full of Personal Data Anyone?

Sometimes, children, and even adults, offer their personal data on a platter to cyber crooks without realizing it. Remember that free game you had downloaded that had asked for your e-mail id, phone, PIN code to allow you access? Or that online competition where you had to share your date of birth, qualifications and current occupation? Many such dubious sites collect more information than they require and store or share it with unauthorized third parties. The result? What you thought was strictly private is now in the public domain.

Similar is the case with the forms you fill up in the hope of winning a lottery or competition. If it’s not a legit site, you stand the risk of revealing facts about yourself and the family that are best kept secret.

Excessive Sharing by kids can lead to financial losses

Children are often privy to your private conversations and are affected by whatever it is that trouble their family members. These digital natives think nothing of expressing their opinions online. The result can often land families in trouble like in the case of Dana.

Dana’s post in her Facebook account led to a breach in a confidentiality clause in a settlement received by her dad and the subsequent loss of the sum.

The girl had hit out publicly against an institution without any thought spared on consequences, stating, “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver….. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” This boast caused the court to revert its decision.

Let personal data remain personal.

Think thrice before sharing:

1) Name

2) Date of birth

3) Address

4) Phone number

4) School/college/workplace details

5) Bank name and account number

Now is a good time to remind you of the cybersafety Mantra “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.”

One thing I have noticed about children is that most of them want to do the right thing, but without being nagged about it or under the threat of a ban. So if you teach them the basic online safety measures and ensure that the entire family follows a set safety manual, it’s very likely that when it’s their turn to decide, they will make the right choice.

Proper Education and Guidance Keys To Online Safety

While education includes talking to kids about the negative effects of over sharing or sharing without thinking, guidance includes setting up Internet usage rules, fixing usage time and installing comprehensive security software like McAfee Family Protection. You must make sure that your security offers parental controls, which as I keep stressing, is absolutely not for spying on kids but ensuring their online safety till they reach a certain level of mental maturity.

10 Safety Tips To Teach Your Children To Protect Their Data Online

  1. Turn off cookies that remember your data for automatic form filling
  2. Do not create an e-mail id that reveal true name and birth date
  3. Be wary of forms, surveys, quizzes, free offers that require you to share a lot of personal data
  4. Do not publicly share your e-mail or social media id
  5. Its better if children don’t go on chatrooms
  6. Share pics safely using Picasa etc. Sharing pics on social media is not advisable
  7. Be careful that your pics don’t reveal your location and address
  8. Don’t share status updates on WhatsApp. All your contacts needn’t know what you are up to
  9. Avoid chatting while playing online games. You may inadvertently reveal info about self/friends
  10. Be careful about what you download. Data collecting cookies can steal data from your PC

Make cybersafety a part of your life. For your own benefit.

Stay safe online and enjoy the cyber world! 🙂