Inflight Wi-Fi boosts business travelers’ productivity, but it also increases security risks for companies when their employees use these often unsecured networks. BCD Travel’s security experts offer simple precautions travelers can take to protect personal data and companies’ confidential information.
Inflight Wi-Fi availability
Over the last couple of years, the number of airlines offering in-flight Wi-Fi has grown significantly. Globally, about 43% of Available Seat Miles are already equipped with Wi-Fi. Almost all airlines now offer a steady connection on at least some of their aircraft, most of them focusing on intercontinental flights. By 2022, the number of commercial aircraft which offer Wi-Fi is expected to almost triple, from approximately 5,243 today, to 14,419 then , according to a new report from online flight shopping provider Routehappy. Want to know what the current offering looks like?
Cost & security
Including inflight Wi-Fi comes with a big cost for the airlines, who are passing the investment on to the traveler. Inflight Wi-Fi charges vary highly from one airline to another: A few airlines offer it for free, others charge €4.50 per hour or up to €45 per 150 MB. Please check the current Wi-Fi costs with your airline prior to your flight.
Next to the extra costs, a few security risks come aboard as well. When not taking the right precautions, perpetrators could gain access to client data, business confidential information and private individual information. “Not aware of the major risks that an open Wi-Fi network is posing to the organization they work for, business travelers risk picking up viruses and malware being propagated back into the network and other users”, explains Frank Schuchard, Information Security Officer at BCD Travel. “The company risks losing personal and confidential information. And after the initial hack, further attacks on systems and information might follow. Which could lead to sabotage and reputational damage.”
Luckily, there are some simple measures every business traveler can take to protect their mobile devices, and by doing so, the company network:
- Use protective mechanisms: install an anti-virus program and firewall.
- When connecting to a network, make sure you access it securely, by using a Secure Connection or Virtual Private Network (VPN). Keep in mind you should not use a free VPN because that uses your data as well.
- Make sure your company managed portable devices receive compliance updates to security policies.
- Secure back-up information on mobile devices on a regular basis.
The reason why it takes a while for airlines to offer Wi-Fi is – amongst others – due to some technological challenges. There are two possible ways to implement Wi-Fi on board:
- Air to ground: The plane picks up signals from land-based cell towers. Users within the plane can connect. However, there is a connectivity issue when flying over the ocean or over areas where there is no overlay in the cell towers reach.
- Ku-Band/Ka-band: A satellite-based option which is a bit like a rooftop TV dish, it has to be directed towards the transmitting satellite. The plane has a router on board to which everyone can connect.
This being said: sit back, relax and enjoy your (online) flight!