Most people would state traveling as their most favorite hobby: it allows you to learn about other cultures, see new things, and escape from the boring daily routine that takes over most of the year. Part of the traveling experience is picking a nice place to sleep, with hotels usually at the front of the list of preferences, but there are many things to consider here, too. Price, comfortable accommodation, and proximity to the center are usually the main concerns for travelers, but in the digital age that we’re living in so is having fast, free, stable Wi-Fi. However, wherever there’s free Wi-Fi there’s also a high risk to your privacy and if no countermeasures are taken beforehand, your holidays could go from the best experience of your life to the worst.
Different Wi-Fi Hotspots, the Same Risks
It’s not only hotels that suffer from the dangers of having a publicly open Wi-Fi network, as cyber criminals will often hunt for their victims in a variety of hotspots, from the simplest coffee shop to free city-wide Wi-Fi that is becoming increasingly common in major cities. But when it comes to hotels, the truth is that you never quite know who’s in the other rooms; you’re all connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, and so while the physical space may not be shared, the digital one most certainly is.
Many hotels protect their hotspots with passwords and think that’s enough, but the credentials that they use are either easy to guess or are given without question at the front desk. Once up in your room, the unprotected online sessions browsing the internet will give the hotel access to the sites you visit, your social media and bank account details, and a whole lot more. This is also true for any other unwelcome guests with the appropriate skills and knowledge, who sometimes don’t even need to be in the hotel to spy on and hack the Wi-Fi and its users.
Also, as technology evolves, router firmware and other aspects of online browsing become obsolete and, instead of updating the tools to follow this, some of even the most reputable hotels invest more in front door security than in its online counterpart. In 2017, for instance, there was a massive credit card breach involving Hyatt Hotels that had repercussions in several countries. More recently, a case involving the Marriott demonstrated how hackers exploited vulnerabilities for four years and gathered piles of relevant information about guest’s reservations and other personal details. In both cases, this compromised data enabled fraud and identity or credit card theft, among other potential problems.
Traveling With a VPN and a Password Manager
There’s not much that can be done if the hotel you’ve chosen doesn’t care about online security to a point that it can’t resist cyber attacks, but when it comes to your individual privacy you have the last word. In this case, VPNs are great tools for everyone, though they have an entirely new meaning for travelers that are always connected to public hotspots.
Regardless of whether you favor hotels or would rather stay in hostels, the problems are essentially the same and VPNs help with problematic scenarios that might arise such as overcoming frustrating geographical blocks or keeping network admins and snoopers away from your online affairs, allowing you to surf at peace and use your passwords securely.
Speaking of passwords, it is exceptionally important to make use of strong, unguessable credentials, preferably without any direct relation to you or your life. It’s true that these will be particularly hard to remember – especially in today’s world where we need to use a lot of them – but that’s where password managers come in, tools that lock all your credentials behind a master password.
In turn, this makes life easier since only that single combination of characters needs to be remembered, though increased security can be added with a secondary authentication option such as a fingerprint. And since password managers feature their own mobile apps, combining them with VPNs will make the pair of tools the perfect traveling companions.
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