Unsurprisingly many people now take laptops or tablets away with them when travelling. Mainly because for many of us the internet is a pretty much essential part of our lives, Think of it, we pay our bills, arrange our finances, plan our leisure time and a hundred other things all online. The advantage is that this doesn’t need to stop when we go travelling as long as we have an internet connected device with us.
For most people that means using wifi services when we travel. There’s no end of places where for the price of a coffee or beer you can hook up to the internet. Great for checking out where you want to eat that night or to make sure you’ve paid that cable bill on time. There’s plenty of free access too – your hotel lobby, airport and even local libraries normally supply free wifi to customers and just people passing by.
But this is not without it’s drawbacks and risks, any wifi network you use could potentially intercept or log whatever you do online. There’s no real way of telling whether a Wifi access point is legitimate or not in most cases. That Wifi signal could be called anything by anyone including deceptive names like ‘official airport-name Wifi’ , there no restriction or checks in the vast majority of places. These access points can even be created on our own mobile devices. You might think you’re using the official free wifi of a company but really connecting through a mobile phone from some complete stranger.
So it’s better to do things like check your online banking using more established wifi set ups, if you really have to. However that’s much harder to than you think, certainly don’t check anything important like email or bank accounts using free wifi. The problem is that the little bar on the end of the street may serve great beer but what do they know about securing a Wifi access point? Whether there’s bad intentions or merely lack of security knowledge your data can be at risk.
One potential solution is to utilise a security program like a VPN or SSH connection whilst you travel. Most companies who operate internationally will normally provide their employees with such program in order to connect safely back to the corporate network. These connections are encrypted between the two endpoints and therefore not at risk to rogue or malicious wifi networks. Your connection is protected by encryption and routed through a VPN or proxy server for an added layer of protection.
If you are not lucky enough to have one to use through your employment there are lots of services which you can subscribe to for a small cost. Most can be hired on a monthly basis too enabling you to protect your connection for a very small amount of cash. It is essential you pick a well run proxy though as other wise your browsing and internet speed could be very slow.
Check this video out for an example –
Which demonstrates what routes you can take to maximise the speed of your connection whilst online. There are other advantages to using this sort of software whilst abroad – you can for instance use it to hide your IP address and access content not normally available in your location. For example many use it to watch things like the BBC, ITV or Hulu from anywhere in the world – here’s a demonstration video.
Overall there are some advantages to using a VPN to protect your connection when travelling but as always common sense is the most important factor. Be careful which networks you use, always select the most trustworthy available. If you think there’s something wrong, don’t connect – simply wait and another access will soon be avalable.