Recently, a lot of people I know have been taking a final summer vacation or attending a conference in a different city for work. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, a common denominator I’ve been noticing is the need to stay connected. It wasn’t too long ago that you took a vacation for a long-awaited respite. Cell phones were turned off and people weren’t reachable. These days, I see pics of friends in Italy, Hawaii, and France while they are still on vacation thanks to their social media updates. While staying connected can be a good thing, you need to take steps to make sure the method of your connection doesn’t lead to identity theft.
Within the last year, multiple hotels have reported that their networks have been compromised by hackers. The goal of the hackers is to gain access to guest credit card information. This isn’t surprising. In fact, according to a 2008 study by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, events like that aren’t unusual. The study concluded that most hotel wireless networks were not secure.
It’s important to ask about the hotel’s WiFi security before logging in. Moreover, don’t assume that just because you’re staying in a nice hotel that criminals are not nearby. Keep these tips in mind to protect your identity when logging online.
• Always assume you’re not alone on any public WiFi network. Disable file sharing, turn on your computer’s personal firewall, and never send Social Security numbers, passwords or financial information when using an unencrypted wireless connection.
• Watch out for fake WiFi access points designed to look just like real hotel WiFi networks.
• Find out whether your hotel’s wireless network uses WPA (WiFi Protected Access) security. WPA usually requires a password to get onto the network and always encrypts everything sent over wireless.
• Use a VPN (virtual private network) to make all the information transmitted over your WiFi connection invisible to hackers.