Konfuzius-1770 CloudFucius checked out some In-flight WiFi this week while traveling to Seattle.  Alaska Air offers GoGo Inflight Internet on their 737 fleet flying the 48 contiguous for $4.95, but the service is free through July 2010.  An instruction card is located in the magazine pouch located in front of your seat and after the climb to 10,000 ft, you can connect with your WiFi enabled device.  The setup is simple: 1. Turn on WiFi; 2. Find ‘gogoinflight’ signal (which happens to be the only one found at 10,000 ft); 3. Launch browser and log in.  You do need to create an account, if you haven’t already, and fill out a couple pages of info – not at all cumbersome.  We got connected fairly easily and quickly without any issues.  We even got connected to F5’s corporate VPN and was able to open Outlook and download any new email along with anything else I usually do while working remotely.  The signal was strong and the speed was usable.  There have been a couple articles about the latency and performance challenges of these cellular connections once more than a few flyers connect.  Limited number of power ports on planes might also discourage fliers, especially on long flights.  Plus, according to this article, ‘Of the 230 respondents who guide corporate travel policy within their organizations, only 34 percent said it's OK for travelers to unsheathe their corporate cards to access Wi-Fi on all flights.’   The Business Travel News survey found that only 7% would reimburse in-flight internet access and only on very long flights.  I usually use business air travel time to rest, play a game on the handheld, read and other relaxing activities but Internet-in-the-Sky does allow the classic road-warrior to stay productive, procrastinators to complete tasks and personal travelers to surf the web. 

Internet on a Plane got me thinking about the security implications of connecting while looking down at actual clouds.  Certainly, you need to be aware of all the usual cautions and risks while connected to a typical open, unencrypted WiFi signal like protecting both your privacy and computer.  Use a VPN if you have access to one, encrypt file transfers, enable your firewall & antivirus, ensure OS patches are up to date and disable any file shares. 

In-air Internet does pose some new threats. 

gogo Over the shoulder eavesdropping is certainly a concern.  Who hasn’t snuck a peek, glanced or outright watched the row in front, through the 2 inch seat separation either out of boredom or nosiness?  While viewing someone edit a corporate PowerPoint isn’t that much of a threat; being able to see emails, VPN credentials or an internal web application URL and log in info being typed in, certainly is a risk.  Call it back seat key logging.  Forget about malware, I’ll watch and jot down what they type.  I found myself feeling a little anxious as I entered the small bit of sensitive information required to create the GoGo account.  Seeing the screen is also a concern and do believe there will be an uptick in privacy filters that protect computer screens from unwanted eyes.  Protecting data in public places is hard enough, but in a cramped airplane there is almost no privacy and you really can’t just get up and leave.   I’ve never been one who favored ‘save password’ but in this instance, having auto-filled asterisks instead of typing it in public is a good idea. 

Heightened awareness of the evolving business travel risks should be reiterated often to all employees.

And one from Confucius: The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.

ps

The CloudFucius Series: Intro, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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