Four tips for using public WiFi safely whilst travelling

Especially whilst you are travelling abroad and trying to avoid roaming charges, public WiFi is a godsend when you’re on the move. While it might be a convenient little luxury, you do have to be cautious about using a public network.


airport wifi large

A survey from the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that we’re now using public networks more than ever – in fact, there are over three million Australians using hotspots on top of their normal internet access1.


If you want to keep your privacy under wraps, here are four tips to ward off prying eyes:

1. Choose secure networks

Not every connection has the same protection as your home internet – and there are plenty of cyber criminals waiting to take a peek at your personal details. In fact, a lot of hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send over their connection. If you login to an unencrypted website while connected to an unsecured network, other users can see what you’re up to – and hackers can easily intercept sensitive information.

Even if you need to pay to connect, if the hotspot doesn’t have the strongest form of encryption, you might be at risk. Pick networks that use WPA2 and WPA encryption – these are a lot more secure than other types.

Above all, don’t assume that you’re safe. Even password-protected networks are still open to breaches, so only login or use websites you know are protected. It’s easy to check the URL bar for a closed padlock or HTTPS (the ‘s’ is for secure). And stick to an internet browser when on your phone or tablet, too. It’s surprising how many apps aren’t set up to defend against cyber theft!


2. Use a VPN

The safest way to peruse the net on public WiFi is to use a virtual private network (VPN). While not every website can have iron-clad security, a VPN encrypts your browsing data on both the sending and receiving ends, even on unsecured hotspots. This stops hackers from getting a hold on your personal details, and can be great option when you’re regularly on the move and need to access your online accounts.


3. Turn off your WiFi when it’s not in use & stop it from auto-connecting to open networks

If you want to stop cyber crooks snooping around your private information – and who doesn’t? – change the settings on your device so it doesn’t connect automatically to open public WiFi within range. You can set up your computer or mobile to forget the network, which gives you more control over when and where you use it again. As well, when you’re all finished browsing, make sure to sign out of any apps or services you were using. Remember: The longer you stay logged in, the more time hackers have to skulk around. Assuming that you do have to remain logged in for long periods of time, strongly consider the use of a firewall & security software on your Mac or PC.


4. Get identity theft monitoring & insurance from Veda Advantage

It can sometimes seem like there are online risks at every turn. However, getting the edge on cyber crime doesn’t need to cost more than the price of cup of coffee a month ($3.95). The experts at Veda Advantage’s Secure Sentinel are finely tuned to the risks of online fraud, so you are alerted if your details show up in places of the internet where they shouldn’t. They provide an excellent solution to people who are seeking to protect the credit reputation they worked hard to build over many years as well as the security of their online banking – especially when travelling abroad.

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Strong signals: growing use of public Wi-Fi hotspots, By The Research and Analysis section, ACMA, November 2014