In-Flight WiFi: An Essential Perk for Air Travelers and Hackers

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Air LaptopIf you’re going to pay for perks when you fly, it’s worth making WiFi one of them, according to the Financially Fit blog on Yahoo! Finance. Passengers on American, Delta, and Southwest airlines have to pay between $8 and $14 for in-flight WiFi. And Delta and American offer money-saving monthly subscriptions for about $40.

But while there’s a lot of grousing about the hefty price tag for WiFi in the sky, experts say passengers are willing to pay. Indeed, in-flight WiFi may be the most versatile of the paid perks airlines offer, and especially on long flights, it’s a bargain. Connecting to it gives passengers a wide variety of entertainment options; and business travelers can get work done away from the office.

Passengers Don’t Realize Paid WiFi Doesn’t Mean Secure WiFi

Unfortunately, even experienced travelers are often clueless about the security risks of in-flight WiFi. Paid WiFi hotspots in the air aren’t any more secure than paid hotspots on the ground. Most of the security in airplane WiFi is built in to the payment system to safeguard your credit card. Beyond that, there’s no encryption to stop passengers from eavesdropping on your communications. An airborne hacker can even set up a rogue WiFi network designed to trick you into connecting to it. When that happens, all your information goes through the hacker’s device, allowing him to capture your wireless data.

For the growing number of employees storing and transmitting company data on their mobile devices, there are even bigger security risks. The July 2013 iPass Mobile Workforce Report revealed that 40% of workers say they work remotely from airplanes; 59% say they’ve paid more than $20 for one-time use of WiFi; and 24% say they’ve paid more than $30 for one-time use of WiFi.

BYOD And Airplane WiFi Could Spell Cyberliability at 35,000 Feet

Cybercrooks know that smartphones and tablets aren’t typically protected by security software. To make matters worse, almost 30% of airline passengers have accidentally left their mobile devices on during flights, according to a study by the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association. That makes passengers on long flights especially tempting targets. And it makes the companies they work for even bigger targets.

A July 2013 survey by Acronis and the Ponemon Institute found that 60% of companies have no BYOD policy in place; 80% haven’t educated employees on BYOD risks; and only 31% mandate a mobile device password.

Another July survey by Aruba Networks of 3,000 employees around the world found that 61% of those surveyed in Europe, 53% in the Middle East, and 42% in the U.S. say their IT department does not provide extra security software to protect work data on their mobile devices. And many of the respondents – including 51% in the U.S. – say they use no security measures to protect company data on their mobile devices. How’s that for flying without a safety net!

If a business experiences a data breach or data loss, its insurance company could claim it’s not responsible if a BYOD device was used and the policy was limited to company-owned or leased devices. If a company does have a BYOD policy and an employee failed to comply with it and its data was compromised, a court could raise the issue of whether the company was negligent. And it could end up being liable for the legal expenses related to the data breach which are often huge.

Think about it this way: would you carry on a clear Lucite briefcase that exposes your company’s confidential information for everyone to see? That’s what you’re doing every time you use in-flight WiFi. Remember, the best way to combat invisible hackers in the air is to become an invisible flyer. That means using a virtual private network to encrypt the sensitive information on your mobile devices.

Get Private Wifi   Protect your personal information.
Get DataCompress   Cut your mobile data usage.