The Risks of Free Public WiFi and How To Stay Protected During Travel

By Hana LaRock | Security

Jan 11
free public WiFi, Travel, cyber security

So, you’re traveling for business and you’re going to have to do work whenever you get the chance. You’re thinking you’ll find tons of trendy cafes, airport waiting rooms, hotel lobbies, and who knows what else…maybe even food courts and mall restaurants, to do your work at.

As you already probably know, connecting to public WiFi networks is a risk for anyone. It doesn’t matter if you work for a big or small company, or if you’re just surfing online for your own personal business. Someone who wants to get in will do it, and it won’t be hard for them to do so. But, when we see that there is a free network for us to connect to, we get excited. Free?! How great.

Well, not exactly.

Why would you make it easier for hackers to get to you?

Putting a little money into making sure your network is safe and secure while you travel is certainly worth it. But, we also understand that you want to save where you can.

So, here are some alternatives to that public WiFi.

To Avoid Sensitive Info Getting Stolen, Get a VPN

Connecting to a free public WiFi network makes it easier for someone to take your sensitive info without you even knowing it. You could be going to make a transaction or be collecting information from a customer when someone can just slip right in there.

However, this can be solved by getting a VPN, which makes it safe to do transactions over a public network. So, if there is no way to avoid using the free network at the airport or a hotel, then this is the route you want to take.

A solid VPN shouldn’t set you back too much. You can find some VPN services as low as $4 a month. Take a look at TheBestVPN.com for more information on the best VPN choices out there.

To Stay Safe, Stick to One Device

One way to be more susceptible to hackers is by using a mobile device. While it’s tempting during travel to use tablets, phones, and anything else that’s essentially “mobile,” this can put you at risk. For one, setting up security systems on a phone is definitely more of a puzzle than doing so on a computer. Second, it’s a lot harder to tell with a mobile device if you’ve been hacked or not.

To stay safe while you’re traveling, do yourself a favor and stick to just one device. Sure, you might bring your phone and tablet along for the trip. But, if you’re going to be doing any work or personal stuff, then keep it all to your computer or another device that’s already secured for these kinds of connections.

Watch Where You Plug in Your Devices, and Carry Your Own “Outlets”

Have you ever noticed at airports or malls that there are charging stations? What about USB outlets in a rental car? While this may not be quite the same as a free public WiFi network, it’s similar in that it’s something convenient that can present huge consequences. Of course, not everything is a risk, but it’s nice to be aware of these things.

If you really need to charge your device, consider getting your own power bank, or charge up in safer places.

Substitute Free Public WiFi Networks for Your Own Hotspot

Nothing is ever 100% safe, especially when it comes to protecting your sensitive information. Even when you have to “pay” to use a public network (like buying a cookie at a cafe to get the password) there are still no guarantees. There are also no guarantees that the WiFi you connect to will be strong enough to allow you to conduct business.

So, to fix all of those potential problems, consider bringing your own secure connection. Nowadays, it’s easy to find personal hotspots at mobile carrier stores that cater to your needs. You can also use your own phone as a hotspot, but like always, make sure it’s secure.

Do you need some cyber security tips for upcoming work travel? Smeester & Associates can help you get all the information you need.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.