As several airlines start to unveil its newly improved in-flight Wi-Fi and other airlines inevitably start to follow, passengers need to be aware that they are just as vulnerable in the air as they are on the ground.
1. Imminent risk
You may assume the plane’s Wi-Fi is safe and secure, but is it really? Airline Wi-Fi is usually being offered through a third-party through which anyone could gain access to your phone or computer, even someone seating next to you.
Free Wi-Fi on planes is not much different than those offered in public hotspot spaces. According to cybersecurity experts, it doesn’t matter if these networks are encrypted or not, when you connect to them, you’re “handing over the destiny of your internet connection”, said James Lyne who works for Sophos as a Security Chief.
2. Data theft onboard
Back in 2016, the story of a reporter’s email being hacked during a flight shed light on the vulnerability of airborne Wi-Fi networks. After the incident, the Wi-Fi provider for the flight, Gogo, confirmed the need for increased caution: “In fact, as Steve Nolan, Gogo’s VP of communications, told me, the service is “public” and “operates in the same ways as most open Wi-Fi hotspots on the ground.” He cautioned against “accessing sensitive materials while in flight.”
3. Protect your data
Don’t get tricked into a false sense of security when on a plane. You have no idea who is on your flight and just because you’re up in the air, it doesn’t mean hackers aren’t nearby waiting to steal your data.
While free Wi-Fi is nice to have while flying for both business and leisure travellers, the convenience of being able to browse thousands of feet up in the air has its own price if certain measures are not taken.Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
Cybersecurity experts suggest the use of a few actions you can take to protect yourself while using inflight Wi-Fi:
- Disable automatic connections
- Never login to any sensitive accounts
- Connect to an official airline or network provider
- Check the legitimacy of the website when entering any sensitive data
- Update your firewalls before a flight
- Never update your software during a flight
- Make sure to go to settings and “Forget the Network” after the flight, so your device won’t automatically connect
- Use a VPN