Free Wi-Fi is irresistible for many travelers but it carries risks.
The Portland, Oregon office of the FBI earlier this month put out an advisory on travel scams, with free Wi-Fi at the top of their list of concerns, citing an FTC advisory.
The key takeaway is that never assume that free Wi-Fi at airports, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and other public places is safe, reports foxnews.
The inconvenient truth is that the internet was created as a medium for easy information exchange, so privacy and security are often vulnerable. And hackers love public wireless hotspots because it’s a relatively easy way to intercept and steal your personal information. If you must use public Wi-Fi, avoid accessing bank accounts, doing online shopping that requires credit card purchases, and generally sending sensitive personal information.
Also, don’t stay signed into a website or account. Log out when you’re done. And don’t use the same password across different websites. If a hacker gets into one account, that could give them access to multiple accounts that use the same password, according to the FTC's advisory.
Even better, shun public Wi-Fi altogether and connect to the Internet via your carrier's 4G/LTE connection.
Though 4G “can be compromised it is much more difficult to hack than public Wi-Fi, which attackers mainly have their sights set on,” according to a Symantec advisory entitled, “How safe is surfing on 4G vs. WiFi?”
Overall, the most secure way to connect is a virtual private network (VPN), which essentially creates a private connection, where your traffic is routed through an encrypted "tunnel." That means no one can see your web traffic. “A virtual private network should be a must for anyone concerned about their online security and privacy,” according to Symantec.
There are many VPN services to choose from but be careful because some are not very reputable.