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Is it safe to use a plane’s Wi-Fi?

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Here are our top tips to help you stay safe when browsing in the sky.

From the Balearics to Bahrain, millions of Brits are heading abroad this summer, despite the chaos at airports around the country. Whether you want to do some work or stream a movie, it can be tempting to connect to the plane’s Wi-Fi. But is it really safe? And if there’s no alternative, what can you do to help protect your data?

The internet became a mainstay in many households by the late 1990s. However, most commercial airlines didn't introduce Wi-Fi until at least 2008. 

How does a plane’s Wi-Fi work
Planes connect to Wi-Fi using antennas. These gather signals from the nearest transmitters. They then send the information to an onboard router which helps spread Wi-Fi signals throughout the plane. 

There are two main operating systems:

Ground-based – This operates in a similar way to mobile data. The plane antenna is like a hotspot as it picks up signals from cell towers. 

Satellite – This form of Wi-Fi technology tends to be the most common when travelling across large bodies of water. Using a network of satellites, the plane’s antenna catches the signals from the nearest one. 

Like any form of public Wi-Fi, there is a risk posed to those who connect. Cyber-criminals take advantage of the lax security because most public Wi-Fi networks aren’t secured. 

How to increase security, when using a plane’s Wi-Fi
Whether you’re flying short or long haul, not being able to connect to the internet can feel uncomfortable. Especially when we’re used to browsing for more than 6 hours a day

Here are our top tips to help you stay safe when browsing in the sky.

Only use secure sites – HTTPS sites have an additional layer of security making them harder to hack. Avoid using HTTP sites: they aren’t as secure and provide hackers with an easy entry point.

Use a VPN – Installing a VPN helps to encrypt data sent between your device and the server. This virtually impenetrable security layer means you can scroll safely at altitude. 

Click ‘public network’ – Before connecting to your airline's Wi-Fi, make sure you’ve designated it a ‘public network’. Choosing this option will turn off a number of file-sharing capabilities to reduce the chances of compromised data. The public network setting can also hide your device from other computers and phones. 

Update firewalls – If you’re thinking about using public Wi-Fi at the airport or on the plane, make sure your firewalls are up to date. Having robust anti-spyware and antivirus software will help you have a stress-free holiday.

 

Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash

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