We are nearing the day where just about every business traveler will need to access the Internet on demand.
Responding to that need, most hotels offer WIFI access to their guests. The majority of them are free, but some are charging ridiculous fees for it! But that is for another post.
What I do want to address in this post is securely accessing websites, email and other information while traveling. The majority of free access points in hotels, cafes and others are provided as unencrypted open Internet access. They are simply providing the doorway.
Public Hotspot and Hotel WIFI Security
While connected to that free access any unencrypted website or email downloading you do can be seen (or sniffed) by the hotel or provider staff and even other guests/users at the same location.
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from those prying eyes.
Only access websites containing sensitive information through https. This requires keeping an eye on your address bar to make sure https:// or the secure padlock indicator is always present. You will also want to make sure that your email application (Outlook, Thunderbird etc) is set to only use your provider’s secure access settings.
If you want to freely browse without being pestered by those details you can access and remotely control a home or office PC as though you were sitting safely in front of it. There is software you can use to do this, but it’s easier to use a service like GoToMyPC or LogMeIn. This, of course would be impossible if you only use a laptop and have no other computer. You would also need to make sure that computer stays on all the time.
If you still don’t want to be bothered with watching for icons or controlling a remote computer to do simple browsing and downloading, you can always use a VPN provider. After you connect to the public Internet, you would then connect to the VPN. All of your traffic would then be tunneled and encrypted through them making it virtually unreadable by anyone locally.
In our experience, the VPN provider is by far the best long term solution to enhance public hotspot and hotel wifi security. Obviously, because of the sensitive nature, you will want to make sure that you choose an established and reputable provider. But once you are set up, you can safely do business as usual.