There are a number of ways to access the Internet if you're waiting for your flight at an airport. Many airports provide Internet terminals. Before you take advantage of that particular way to kill time while waiting, though, you'd best think twice about its security.
There is not much joy that comes with waiting in the airport to board your flight. You do have some options to pass the time. You can grab a bite to eat, people watch, make some phone calls, or even read a book or the newspaper. For many, however, surfing the Internet is the preferred method of entertainment. While being able to gain Internet access while you wait is a great luxury, doing so could open your yourself up to some potential problems, especially if you choose to connect to a terminal provided by the airport itself.
Some travelers may prefer to store their laptops in their checked baggage to avoid having to lug them around. With their laptops out of reach, an airport Internet terminal seems like a convenient alternative. One problem that arises with people connecting to the Internet at airports has to do with trust. Many people assume that if the airport is supplying the signal, everything is safe. That is not true; Nick Johnston of Symantec Hosted Services posted a documented instance of an unsafe airport Internet terminal on Symantec's website.
Johnston, a senior software engineer at Symantec, was using an Internet terminal at an airport in England when he noticed that a “Defense Center Installer” popup appeared on the screen. While many common users would think that such a popup is legit, it actually is not. Rather, the “Defense Center Installer” box is an example of “scareware.”
Scareware is fake anti-virus software used to dupe users into purchasing it. The scareware will tell the user that their computer is infected, and in order to clean it, they must buy the full version of the software. The scareware will use other tactics to convince users to make a purchase as well. For example, it might try to uninstall a legit form of anti-virus software already running on the computer. It may also be able to get a computer's Windows Security Center to display a message that no anti-virus software is running, which would possibly scare or entice the user to purchase the fake anti-virus software.
Does this mean that you should not use airport Internet terminals at all? No. However, you should be careful in the manner that you do use them. Since it is possible that a vicious form of malware, such as a keylogger, could have infected a terminal, you should avoid logging into any important accounts at all costs. Avoid checking bank accounts online, as well as your email accounts. Also, do not attempt to access any social networking profiles, as they could contain sensitive personal information as well.
If a terminal is infected with keylogger software, a hacker could obtain some of your personal information from that one instance, which could cause major problems. You are much better off using Internet terminals at airports, or any other public places, casually. Be patient and wait until you can get on a safe, secure network that you can trust.
For more on this issue, visit: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-20014713-83.html?tag=mncol;title
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