Do you hop on the public Wi-Fi connection every time you wait around at an airport? Beware that there is a big — and potentially costly — danger if you use that connection like it was your personal internet connection at home.
Publicly accessible networks — like those airports offer — are not secure. They generally lack security measures such as protected passwords or encryption. In short, using a public Wi-Fi network can put you at risk of hacking or identity theft.
Some public networks are less secure than others, though. A recent analysis by cybersecurity firm Coronet reveals which airports have the weakest networks from a security perspective.
The worst airports for network security
For its analysis, Coronet evaluated the Wi-Fi networks of the 45 busiest airports in the U.S., looking at device vulnerabilities and Wi-Fi network risks.
The 10 airports that ranked lowest, starting with the least secure, are:
- San Diego International Airport
- John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, California
- William P. Hobby Airport, Houston
- Southwest Florida International Airport, Fort Myers, Florida
- Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey
- Dallas Love Field
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport, North Carolina
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport
- Boston Logan International Airport
At the other end of the spectrum, deemed the least vulnerable, is Chicago’s Midway International Airport.
The trouble with public Wi-Fi networks
We tend to think of our online activities like checking email or accessing cloud storage as private. After all, accessing email and other personal accounts requires us to enter a password.
But others can access the information like passwords that you enter while on a public network. As Fran Rosch, an executive vice president at cybersecurity company Symantec explained last year, “What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by cybercriminals through unsecure Wi-Fi networks …”
We further explain in “Protect Your Data — Critical Things to Know About Public and Hotel Wi-Fi“:
“Being on public Wi-Fi is a lot like having a conversation in a crowded room. The chances of being overheard by the people around you are high. When you send information over an unsecured Wi-Fi network, it’s sent without the extra layer of security or encryption that a private, secured network offers, so it’s relatively easy for hackers to access the information you type and send, including your login and password information.”
So, while it may be convenient to hop on an airport’s network, ask yourself whether it’s worth the security risk. And at the least, refrain from accessing your bank, credit card or other financial accounts while on a public network.
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