A common question we hear...
Should you be using Public Wifi? The Wifi in your hotel, or the airport - is it safe?
The answer, as with most things is..... well it depends.
Be aware of the Risks
Firstly, the most important thing to understand is your risk.
When using Public (both free and paid for) Wireless Networks, then there are 2 main issue.
The first, if you have poor security on your device then somebody could easily 'hack' into your device and view / remove your data.
The second is the potential of a 'man-in-the-middle' attack.
There is a relatively inexpensive device called a Pineapple which can be yours for a pricey sum of $99.
Using this device, anybody can set up a wireless network with the same name as the Hotel, Airport or other Wireless network that you're logged onto.
Unbeknownst to you, once logged onto their network, you can be served malicious content - with you completely unaware that anything has happened.
You could be happily logging in to your Barclays Online Banking, or logging in to your company email account - and all of those details are being captured and given to the 'attacker' who is sat there with his $99 device.
A popular US TV show called Silicon Valley covered this topic and how it could play out fairly well which is embedded below. Excuse the language!
If you are currently sat in a Hilton Hotel, or the Airport Lounge and are logged onto the Wifi, then there are 2 questions I would ask.
Question #1 - What do you have stored on your Device (Laptop, Phone, Tablet etc..)
If you have a lot of sensitive or confidential data stored, then connecting to completely open and public networks should only be considered in extreme circumstances. If you have nothing of concern, then proceed.
Question #2 - What are you about to do?
If you fancy a quick shop on eBay before your flight leaves, go for it! If you're about to login to your Bank to send a large amount of money then think again Frank!
What can I do to protect myself?
If you need to use the Internet, then look at hotspotting your own mobile phone, which allows your laptop or tablet to share the 4G connection with your mobile phone.
Whilst this has its own potential security concerns, it is typically less than a much more insecure public network.
An alternative suggestion would be to use a VPN as soon as you are connected onto the wireless network. This ensures all data you send and receive is encrypted, so any snoopers won't be able to sniff the packets of data going back and forth.
Both of these are relatively easy to do, and will raise the level of security over just using the public wireless.
Again, if you are just browsing the general Internet for the likes of social media accounts and cat videos then there usually is no need, but it's worth being aware of the risks all the same.