Fiscal Leadership for Georgia

Online Security Tips for Smarter Travel

September 2, 2014

While the convenience of free WiFi is alluring to any traveler, understanding the dangers associated with using wireless hotspots is important. Because WiFi is simply radio waves, hackers and identity thieves can easily listen in to anything you send and receive on unencrypted connections. And many public Wi-Fi connections are not encrypted.

Whether you are using WiFi at your hotel, the airport, or a tourist attraction, you can potentially be exposed. If you are checking your bank account, sharing photos, reserving a hotel room, or even booking a plane ticket, that sensitive data is vulnerable.

1. Keep a clean machine.

Ensure your devices are up to date with the latest antivirus firewall protection and operating system patches.

2. Stop and think before you connect to public WiFi.

WiFi is available everywhere you go including airports, hotels, restaurants, parks, and museums but these networks are completely open and insecure. Use common sense when you connect to public WiFi and be cautious about the sites you visit and the information you send.

3. Paid WiFi doesn't mean safe WiFi.

Just because you paid for WiFi access, it doesn't mean it's safe. There's no encryption to stop anyone from eavesdropping on your communications, so make sure you protect yourself from hackers.

4. Beware of evil twins.

Hackers sometimes set up evil twins - WiFi networks that look real - near legitimate public networks. If you connect to them all of your information can be captured. It can be hard to tell the difference so confirm the name of the hotspot with the owner before you connect.

5. Use a VPN to encrypt information on all of your devices.

If you use public Wi-Fi while you travel, the only way to guarantee your security is to use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your personal data in wireless hotspots. Remember, WiFi signals are just radio waves. Anyone can "listen in" to what you send and receive. Antivirus or firewall software won't protect you - but a VPN encrypts all of your communications no matter where your travels take you.

The most important thing to remember when on any open WiFi is that it isn't secure. The only way to truly guarantee your privacy and safety is to use a personal virtual private network (VPN) to protect all the information you send and receive. For travelers, using a VPN is the simplest way to keep safe on Wi-Fi.