When traveling overseas connecting to the internet can be expensive. Many of us are lured by the prospect of a free internet connection at airports, shopping centers, coffee shops and the like and happily connect with little consideration to the risk posed. Many of us aged over the age of fifty have no idea how to safely navigate through risky Wi-Fi connections.
Hot Spots are just about everywhere which is convenient but highly dangerous. Hot Spot hackers are on the rise as it's so easy now for criminals to acquire the hardware to carry out this stealthy pursuit. By using a VPN service Hot Spot sniffing of devices is eliminated by blocking access to others from viewing your logins, passwords and private data.
Using a VPN account from a trusted VPN service provider is worth seriously considering when doing any type of online banking or personal business in Wi-Fi hot spot areas at home or overseas. When connected to a Public Wi-Fi Network you are passing your traffic along (with everyone else) on the network. Using a VPN account encrypts all your personal traffic and eliminates any potential threat.
Having access to a Virtual Private Network also allows the traveler to bypass Internet filtering. Some countries including Vietnam, Spain, Portugal, China and Thailand amongst others use 'blocking' or 'filtering' to restrict access to sites deemed unfit for the nation's population.
By connecting your VPN to a country that doesn’t block the site access to content is no longer a problem. A VPN can provide access to blocked content from companies such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO and the BBC when traveling overseas.
Common uses for VPN - Virtual Private Network include:
- Virtual Firewall
- Anonymous Surfing
- Strong DNS
- Stronger Security Than Proxy
- Have Your Country IP Anywhere
- Access Websites
- Safe Public Wi-Fi Access
For most travelers their concern first and foremost is maintaining security when connecting to Wi-Fi Hot Spots. If you are connecting to any hot spot at home or overseas, there are a a number of things you can do to minimize the risk posed without the use of a VPN including;
How To Stay Safe When Using Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi hot spots are available at many locations, are convenient and can be used safely. By understanding what you need to know and do before connecting travelers can minimize their exposure to criminals.
In our eagerness to secure a 'free' internet connection most of us are tempted to click through whatever welcome screens appear, however one needs be very careful to check what you're signing up for. Many Wi-Fi networks are set up in public places by marketing firms who are willing to give you some bandwidth in return for an email address and phone number, meaning you could be bombarded with unwanted contact within days of connecting.
The connection terms and conditions should always include details of how your data is going to be used. By reading through the terms and conditions in full prior to connecting, you are in a better position to decide whether access really is worth the information you're giving up. This is one of those times when it's handy to have an alternative email address you can make use of.
Another option is to stick to advertised, official Wi-Fi network points that have been set up by the coffee shop, airport or bar. Hackers frequently set up free Wi-Fi networks to catch gullible citizens looking for free bandwidth. If you see an open, banal looking network that seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Use Secure Websites And Apps
The green padlock that appears in your browser's address bar when you are connected to a secure site is even more important when on public Wi-Fi. Seriously consider before doing anything important across an unsecured connection including accessing your bank account, as it is much easier for someone else on the same network to seize the data that is being transferred during the course of the connection.
If you are connected on your phone it is always better to use a mobile browser than an app, because browsers are more fussy when it comes to checking and verifying these 'HTTPS' connections. In effect, apps can be accepting bogus security credentials without your knowledge and could potentially present a problem if you are doing something important like online banking or making purchases online.
In terms of mobile apps, users are really at the mercy of the developer as far as wireless security goes. Sticking to apps from well-known names while on public Wi-Fi will limit the risk, although there is no guarantee. If you're using the mobile versions of Chrome or Safari then you have the same kind of protection in place as you do when using the desktop programs.
Avoid downloading or installing anything, and make sure all your system software is up to date. If you are using a laptop make sure you are not sharing folders or devices with others on the network. This should be managed automatically for you by your OS when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network but you should just double check to be sure.
If you are using Windows, visit the Network and Sharing Center in Control Panel then follow the 'change advanced sharing' settings link where you can configure different options for private and public networks that kick in automatically. On Mac OS X the option can be found under the Sharing entry in System Preferences. Always untick the File Sharing box for extra protection.
Logging out of websites when you're finished with them and telling your laptop or smartphone to 'forget' the network after you've left can also reduce your security risk. General common sense actions such as using different passwords for each of your apps and services can come in handy should someone manage to steal a look at the data you have transmitted across a network.
No matter the number of steps you end up taking to stay secure when online using public Wi-Fi, remember that public networks are inherently more exposed than the ones you use at home or work. If you need to connect for banking or to make an online purchase you may well be better off using the cellular connection on your smartphone.
Think twice about typing in passwords, usernames, credit card details or anything else that could be of use to someone else who might be scanning the same network. Limit your use by sticking to activities you don't mind being snooped on, like flicking through the day's news or watching YouTube.
Fortunately though the situation is improving with the bigger and more established free wifi providers making efforts to minimize the security risks with coffee shops and hotel chains signing deals with external firms who know what they're doing. Don't be afraid to get connected while you're out and about just make sure you know what you're doing.