Shaun Murphy, CEO Private Giant, has some solid tips for your next travel journey if you intend to plug in and stay connected. Here are some wifi tips for your treks:
1.) Listen to your apps/devices when they say your connection is not secure.
• Web browsers will have an indicator in the URL bar (the place where you type in the site’s name) if the site is safe or not. The generally accepted icon for this is a closed (or locked) padlock. If that padlock is there and has a red X or a warning sign on top of it then you just might be on an unsafe connection.
• Web browsers will also warn you if your connection is not secure in the area where the website normally would be displayed. If you see a screen like this instead of the expected website, do not hit continue or override this warning…
• If you connect to a WiFi access point that requires you to log in via a web browser before using, connect to a basic website first (I always recommend http://example.com)… these types of WiFi access points have a system called a “captive portal” that will capture the URL and data you send to it the first time so they can redirect to their login system.
• If a WiFi access point requires you to install anything (software, plugin, or a security certificate) before connecting, disconnect immediately. This is a known scam that can install malicious software that causes immediate damage (ransomware, malware, viruses, etc.) on your device. Or, it can install a security setting called a certificate that, although not noticeable, will permanently weaken any secure connections you ever make so that WiFi operator can read/modify all of your internet data.
• Most operating systems will warn you if you’re connecting to a WiFi that is not secure. If you do connect to unsecure WiFi, your information is freely readable by anyone in close proximity. Only connect to WiFi access points that require you to type in a password via the operating system’s WiFi connection screen (not in a web browser)
2.) Install a separate web browser for travelling or connecting to unknown WiFi access points. You can keep your main web browser logged into all of your favorite sites, save passwords, etc. but the other one will have none of that information. The nice thing about that is even if you do connect to an unsafe WiFi, your exposure will only be limited to the new browsing session. Use this alternative browser for basic surfing and never log into your email accounts, social media accounts, or post any personally identifiable information. A great alternative browser is Firefox – https://www.mozilla.org/firefox available on most desktops, laptops, and android-based mobile devices.
If you can’t install an alternative browser, see if your browser supports a Private or Incognito browsing mode. Doing this will not be as strong as a separate browsing application but will prevent leakage of most data.
3.) See if your home internet router has a virtual private network option. This is somewhat complex to set up but when done you can safely connect to your home network from any WiFi access point, secure or not. You will be surfing and emailing just like you do at home but while 30,000ft in the air. How cool is that!
Please note that there are some companies that sell VPN hosted services that claim to have a secure and safe browsing experience… the problem with these is you have no way of knowing what they are doing on their end with your data so instead of connecting to one unsafe/unknown internet connection, you now have two!
4.) Just don’t connect to unknown / unsafe WiFi. Use your cell phone in tethering mode… if you have Verizon turn off that horribly invasive super cookie tracking!
5.) Basic stuff… make sure you type in websites using https:// and not just plain http://. This will tell the browser to connect securely (or display an error if it can’t) to your online service and give you very strong protection.