Your flight doesn’t leave for another hour. You decide to go searching for some free Wi-Fi to occupy your time. You land on the network “Free Airport Wi-Fi” and connect right away. The only problem is you might be setting yourself up for major headaches before your trip even begins thanks to joining the ever-enticing free Wi-Fi network at the airport. Wi-Fi is basically a necessity while traveling. Most travelers want to stay connected to emails, social networks and work obligations, even while on the road. At the same time, many travelers are at risk when using Wi-Fi while traveling. In order to avoid stolen identities and data, we have rounded up everything you need to know about using Wi-Fi securely when you travel.
Do a Security Check-up on Your Devices Before You Leave
Just as you must prepare for a trip by packing and notifying your bank of your travel plans, you also should prepare your devices for travel. A computer that hasn’t updated its security software or settings for several years isn’t going to be secure when you travel, no matter what Wi-Fi you use. Make sure your computers, phones and tablets are all up to date with the latest software updates, especially ones pertaining to security. While you are doing a security checkup on all your devices, consider how strong all your passwords may be. If you are planning on using email and your social networks while you travel, be sure these sites have strong passwords with a healthy mix of letters, numbers and characters.
Turn Off File Sharing and Your Wi-Fi Feature When Not in Use
Most computers have a file sharing option where people sharing the same Wi-Fi network can also see each other’s files. Before you leave on your trip, ensure that this feature has been disabled. Along the same lines, be sure your Wi-Fi feature is turned off. Only turn it on when you need to use it. If it’s on all the time, other devices can see you. Your phone might even join networks automatically. It also helps to always check the “forget network” box so that your device won’t save all the networks you encounter as you travel.
Always Double Check The Network
One of the worst mistakes travelers make in terms of using Wi-Fi on the road is joining networks that are fraudulent or malicious. Hackers love to mimic legitimate Wi-Fi networks in hopes that you will join them. They will usually create a similar network to the one you want to use with the nearby establishment’s name plus “Free Wi-Fi.” Don’t just join a network blindly. From your hotel to the airport to the cafe, ask an employee for the official network name and password. If that network is not locked and protected with a password, you are exposing yourself to hackers so surf the web like you’re walking on eggshells.
Look For Secure Sites
When you travel and join different Wi-Fi networks, you can still encounter problems with security even if you log into the right network with a password. The sites you visit should be secure. For example, you need to purchase museum tickets on a Wi-Fi network while you’re traveling. If you are on a trusted network, be sure the site you are visiting is also trusted. It should have a lock icon and the web address should be followed by https, especially if you will be entering in any credit card information.
For Banking Websites, Consider Using Other Internet Options
Using a public Wi-Fi network to check your banking while you’re on the road isn’t always the smartest idea. In general, you should avoid using your banking and credit card websites while you travel. Try to pay bills before you leave so you don’t have to check these sites in the first place. If you do have to check your bank account, consider using another Internet option to log on such as your own cellular network, the good old fashioned ethernet connection or bringing your own Wi-Fi entirely. There connections will be more secure than using a Wi-Fi hotspot at the airport.
Use Wi-Fi on Public Computers at Your Own Risk
If you are of the mindset that you will just use a public computer at the business center at your hotel or an Internet cafe when you travel, don’t let your guard down. Public computers are perfectly fine to use if you are just checking the opening times of a museum or the bus schedules at your destination. However, when you need to log on to an account with a username and password, these computers are seldom secure. You never know who was using the computer before and after you, along with what malicious software might lurk behind the keys. If you can avoid using these computers for logging in to your accounts, do. If you can’t, be sure that you always uncheck the box to remember passwords when you login.
Using Wi-Fi while traveling is a bit of a security gamble. If you aren’t careful, your data and identity could be stolen right out from underneath your keyboard or cellphone.
What other Wi-Fi security tips while traveling would you add to the list? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!