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There was a time when the average vacationer would seek a quantum of solace in the sunshine, and their only wish was to have poolside drinks delivered where and when their heart so desired. Fast forward from yester year and the ‘wants’ include ‘must have free Wi-Fi!’ The term free, means free, or does it? Does the traveller really know the sacrifices they will make as they trade their data and security, for the ‘Free Wi-Fi?’ The answer in most cases is probably not!

So, you have made enquiries, checked out the destinations local sightseeing tours, and of course how good the hotel’s Wi-Fi is, and you are good to go. You get to the airport and take advantage of the internet, which is usually limited to say 30 minutes, and you may even have used the free internet on the coach, bus station, or even the taxi! Well, that is already a great deal of data sharing and you have not even taken off yet.

You land, and your focus is locked on the desire to turn your phone back on and see if you have got reception. You finally get to your place of residence for the next 7/10/14 days, and you will need to go to the main desk to book in. Yes, we know, you will probably forget to ask for the Wi-Fi login, but it will probably be on your welcome notice in your room. That will be one of the first things that you will do when you get in your room, yes, even before you unpack. Once you have connected, you will feel safe in the knowledge that you can surf the websites, make transactions, and post photos on the go. Does this all sound familiar?

Undoubtedly, some will say, well I use a VPN (Virtual private Network), so I am safe. Oh dear, this is all going to end in tears. You have already trusted so many internet connections and left a complete trail of your movements, and you may not even realise that you have done so. Your phone is continuously looking to keep you connected to a cell tower, and in order for the towers to permit access, they will need to know the details of your SIM (Subscriber Identity Module), your service provider, and at the same time the tower will grab your phone number, make, model of your handset, and establish your identity (name you have registered for your mobile device(s). Now it will know who you are, where you are from, where you have been, and no VPN in the world will save you (as they don’t work like that).

Solution of sorts can be found by landing and using your (unlocked/carrier free) phone and go to a local phone shop and buy a SIM only deal that has internet data. Stay off the FREE Wi-Fi, no matter how tempting it is and use only websites that you know are safe. The suggestions mentioned will reduce your chances of leaking too much data but trust me when I tell you that there will still be data leaks.

There are many ways that a hacker can still glean the information that they require to sell on certain websites, but why make it easy for them? Attacks range from SIM swaps, to man in the middle attacks. We shall delve into the ways in which attacks happen and find out, what to look for in future publications of ‘Your-Magazine’. Hope you found this piece interesting, and if you would like to know more about tech related subjects, then please let me know!

Keep safe and well – and please remember that the AfroGlobal community is great to be a part of.

By Dr Attilio Grandani CySA

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