Warning! Free wi-fi might cost you more than you think

 In Security

You’re travelling, the cost of data roaming is through the roof, and your hotel has free wi-fi, and you …

… and you don’t connect. Right?

I know how tempting it is to use free wi-fi when you’re on the go, but it’s a big risk to take. I also know that there are times when you find yourself without any other option. So let’s look at the risks and then at your options for protection.

Is it really that bad?

Take a look at Firesheep. With access to an open wi-fi network and just a few clicks, you can hijack strangers’ social media accounts, and start posting as them. It’s just that easy. (But don’t do it, because it’s not nice and totally illegal).

You’re at risk when connecting to open networks. We’re talking about those free wi-fi options you’re offered, with or without a password, when you’re out and about in airports, malls, cafés, hotels and the like. Some of these networks are even specifically set up for malicious purposes.

All open wi-fi networks can be used to:

  • snoop on your activities and hijack accounts
  • capture your passwords and identifying information for malicious purposes
  • install malicious applications on your device without your knowledge.

The consequences range from minor inconvenience to major business and personal disruption.

Your options

Your most secure option is always going to be to avoid open wireless networks all together. But using open networks, particularly if you travel a lot, has become almost unavoidable.

There are some basic device management options for staying safer on public networks, but for a much better long-term solution, you should use a VPN.

VPN how-to

A VPN is a virtual private network, which creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between your device and another network. Traditionally they’ve been used to provide a secure connection to externally access sensitive business applications and data. They are increasingly being used by individuals who want to maintain the security of their private data while connecting to unsecured networks.

There’s a common misconception that use of a VPN is illegal. A VPN itself is completely legal. There are only issues of legality if you are using one as a tool to mask illegal activities.

VPNs can be set up via subscription with a simple software download. You have a lot of options when it comes to VPN providers and it’s prudent to be a little wary of providers. Do your research to choose a provider that is reputable, transparent, encrypted, user-friendly and provides value for money.

Here, Damien shows you how easy it is to protect yourself with a cloud-based VPN.

If you’re in the market for a VPN, we recommend Australians look at:

  • ExpressVPN – Good on speed, and excellent customer service, but at a premium price. Express VPN receives consistently good reviews from users.
  • TorGuard – TorGuard is well reviewed in Australia, and is one of the few VPN providers that offer solutions for business. User reports vary on their customer service delivery.
  • SlickVPN – Provides good speed for a good price and is well reviewed by users.
  • NordVPN – Reliable, good customer service, affordable, but some users report slower connection speeds with NordVPN.
  • Private internet access (PIA) – Reliable and affordable with consistently good reviews in Australia since their addition of Australian servers.

Get in touch if you want further support with selecting and setting up a VPN, Proactive IT Solutions is happy to assist.

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