If your brood of kids is anything like mine, holiday travel is all about devices and Wi-Fi. Sure, we’ll focus on sights and activities when we get to our destination, but the journey is made all the sweeter with a huge dose of technology!
And as all my boys have pretty basic mobile phone plans (I’m paying!), a technology binge means Wi-Fi! Whether it’s connecting at the airport, on the plane – yes this is a thing now, in trains or in hotels – finding Wi-Fi is possibly more important to my boys than finding the next snack bar.
But unfortunately, Wi-Fi is not the great nirvana. There can be some serious risks associated with connecting to random Wi-Fi outlets, as I continuously tell my offspring. The recent KRACK Wi-Fi saga, which potentially affected iOS and Android users worldwide, gave us all a big scare and reminded us yet again that modern Wi-Fi is not risk free. Discovered by a Belgian researcher, the KRACK vulnerability meant a hacker could access your device even through a password protected Wi-Fi network. It was such a big deal that even the US Department of Homeland Security issued a warning!
‘It Won’t Happen To Me’
Regardless of the warnings, there are still many amongst us that are not convinced Wi-Fi poses genuine risks, particularly when we travel. Many of my friends and family members still believe horror stories only happen to ‘other people’.
And research conducted by McAfee confirms this very opinion with the majority Aussies surveyed not worried about the risks associated with Wi-Fi. In fact, 62% of people on holiday either don’t care or don’t bother ensuring they have a secure Wi-Fi connection. And 41% believe our personal information is as secure when we connect to public Wi-Fi on holiday as when we are home or at work. Eeek!!!
Why Do We Need To Worry?
In short, accessing dodgy Wi-Fi means you are more likely to get hacked which can cause you a world of pain! If you have connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot that has either been set up by a hacker or a hacker has broken in to, anything you send or share online – you are also sharing with the hacker: banking details, online shopping logins, social media passwords… the list goes on. And once the hacker has that information, he/she can access your accounts as if they were you.
In addition to potentially stealing your private information, hackers can also use public Wi-Fi to distribute malware aka malicious software. Some hackers have been known to hack the Wi-Fi connection point itself to try and trick Wi-Fi users into downloading malicious software. Attractive, believable pop-ups appear on users’ screens offering free upgrade to commonly used software. However, clicking the link in the pop-up ad downloads the malicious software!
What Should We Do To Stay Safe?
Well, let me tell you I’m not staying home… holidays keep me going! So, what we need to do is spend just a little time implementing a few strategies so we can securely manage our kids and their online lives when we travel. Not only will this minimise the risk but just as importantly, the stress!
Here is how I’ll be managing my boys and their Wi-Fi connections when we set off on our annual family vacation this year:
1. Ban Free Wi-Fi
If your kids just have to connect to Wi-Fi, ensure it is password protected option NOT a random free Wi-Fi. While this does not provide any guarantee of security, it is another layer of protection. However, no banking, financial or shopping transactions are to be undertaken on this Wi-Fi – no exceptions!
2. Invest in a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best services you can sign up to. In simple terms, it creates a secure encrypted connection which means that anything you send or receive is safe. McAfee’s VPN, SafeConnect, provides bank-grade Wi-Fi encryption which means your personal data and online activities are kept private even when you are connected to public Wi-Fi.
3. Update ALL Your Devices Before You Leave Home
I know it is a pain but if the software and apps on your devices are not up to date, you’re essentially leaving a ‘back door’ open for a hacker. App creators and hardware vendors will release patches or updates when they become aware of a security vulnerability – so it is essential you have the latest and greatest installed before you walk out of your door!
4. Turn Off Bluetooth When Not Using It
This needs to become a family rule – just like turning off the lights before you leave the house! When your Bluetooth is active, hackers can see which networks you have connected previously. It then takes very little effort for them to copy these networks and fool your device into connecting with their Bluetooth devices. Within minutes, the hacker can steal your data, download malware and create a world of pain!
5. Download Security Software for All Your Devices including Smartphones!
Ensuring your devices are protected with comprehensive security software is the same as locking the backdoor and turning on the house alarm – common sense. McAfee’s Total Protection software provides protection for your entire fleet of devices and includes anti-virus and anti-malware software, a firewall, anti-spam functions, parental controls and a password management tool.
So, don’t cancel your holiday. Managing Wi-Fi safely when you travel with kids is absolutely possible with just a little planning. And if Nana and Pop are joining you on vacation, please ensure they are up to speed with the family Wi-Fi rules too! With 85% of older Australians accessing the internet every day, they will very likely have their eye on the Wi-Fi too!
Happy Christmas and Safe Travels!