For many, summer vacations used to mean leaving all the trappings of home behind. But now that we’re more inseparable from our devices than ever before, we never leave everything behind — especially anything that can connect us to the Internet. But the trouble with using the Internet on vacation is that often the only Wi-Fi hotspots available— at hotels, airports, coffee shops, etc. — are unsecured, public networks, and that spells trouble. Here’s how to minimize the risk.
- Whenever possible, don’t use a public network. Try to use a secure, password-protected connection. Attackers prey on public networks to steal people’s passwords and personal data and to download malicious programs to user systems. And be sure to verify that public network’s name and IP address with an employee; creating bogus networks with names similar to the establishment offering the public network is a trick common to crafty attackers.
- If you must use a public network, exercise extreme caution. Don’t access social media accounts where personal information is accessible, and never, ever log into bank or credit card websites, thereby exposing your financial data to theft.Virtual Private Networks provide secure Internet connections for users and encrypt all data transmitted during those sessions.
- Use a VPN. Virtual Private Networks provide secure Internet connections for users and encrypt all data transmitted during those sessions. There are lots of good VPNs available that are free to use, and more robust solutions are available for a reasonable $5-$10 a month. Popular paid VPNs include Hamachi, Private Internet Access and Astrill. Widely used free VPNS include Shrew Soft, Comodo Unite and the free version of Hamachi.
- Users can also harness the cellular connections of their phones by turning them into mobile hotspots, or buying separate hotspot devices. These crafty setups allow you to access the Internet securely, but may not be as fast as wireless networks and, because they are attached to your monthly data access, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the appropriate plan to allow for that.
- Because none of these solutions are ever 100-percent secure, you should always use a robust Internet security suite on your laptops, tablets and smartphones. Oh, did we mention to avoid public Wi-Fi networks like the plague? Yeah, do that.