Regardless of where you travel, overseas or domestically, you don’t have a lot of online privacy: You can’t just assume that your private financial and personal information are safe from prying eyes. You may have taken the right precautions at home and the office, but a lot of travelers forget and let their guard down when they’re on vacation or a business trip.
Most likely you have secured internet access at home and work. You probably know what sites are safe to access on free wifi, but what about when you’re on the road? How can you be sure you’re protected from hackers and bad actors?
Surprisingly, about 96 percent — almost every single one — of U.S. travelers use unprotected wifi. Seventy-five percent connect to networks without passwords. Want an even scarier statistic? Only 23 percent of those surveyed use VPNs to protect personal information. These alarming numbers came from a recent Travel Daily News article.
They’re business travelers and vacationers, destined for more than just a new city to explore. They’re headed for a lot of headaches related to identity theft and fraud.
Hackers lie in wait for unsuspecting travelers and tourists to log onto unsecured wifi at an airport, hotel, restaurant, etc, so they can view online activity and even break into your system to access personal and financial information.
More frightening is the connection they establish between your computer and the business being reached. At that point, bank information and credit card numbers are fair game.
As security methods improve, hackers devise more intricate schemes to defeat it. Travelers assume safety in places where it isn’t: hotels, airports, coffee shops, etc. Hackers can potentially follow the traffic on a public hotspot, or even send people to what looks like a legitimate page when in fact, it’s not.
So what can you do?
According to the Travel Daily News article, more people are turning to VPNs to protect their online data and communications.
VPNs, or virtual private networks, let people create secure connections with other networks. They use 256-bit AES encryption or even military-grade encryption to keep out the bad guys.
It works like this: When you normally go online, you access a regular server out in “the open.” Imagine having a conversation with a friend at a restaurant, but you’re 20 feet apart. Everyone can overhear it, and someone could write down everything you say.
A VPN acts almost like a pipe or tunnel between your device and the other server. It would be like you putting a special tube between you and your friend to protect your conversation. You each talk and listen, but no one else can hear you.
But there’s an extra layer of security with a VPN. For some VPNs, you don’t actually access your desired server directly. Instead, you go to the VPN’s server, which is located in a different part of the country, and the VPN server goes out to get the content you want.
In essence, your content is being relayed to you through a secure server so no one else can see it. Not only is your content kept private, but to anyone watching your web traffic,
it looks like you’re only accessing the VPN’s server.
This way, you can access your bank’s website but no one will ever know that’s what you did.
This can be helpful in a number of ways.
- A VPN hides your identity while you’re online. The final destination can’t actually tell who you are either, so it protects your identity.
- It protects your personal information from being seen by outsiders. By acting like a tunnel, no one can eavesdrop on your transactions.
- This also keeps hackers from reading your transmitted information. Ideally, you wouldn’t do any online banking while you travel, but if you did, you would need a VPN to protect yourself.
- You can also connect to your company’s servers and proprietary information. Many corporations put their content and IP behind firewalls and the only want way to get past them is to either be inside the building or use a VPN.
- You can access geo-limited content while you travel. For example, you could watch your home-based Netflix even if you were in another country.
You should always use VPN no matter where you’re traveling, if you’re on a public server, such as at the airport, hotel or café. In other words, anywhere you can use public, you should use a VPN.
You can get VPNs for your laptop, mobile phone, and even tablet. They can range anywhere from $30 per year to $30 per month. But if you check StackSocial.com, you can find some good bargains on some of the best VPNs available, such as 90% off lifetime subscriptions and multi-year subscriptions for the price of one.
If you decide to get a VPN before your next trip, get it soon and start using it so you can understand how it works and deal with any hiccups or learning curve.
Do you use a VPN? How do you protect your online privacy when you travel? Share your hints with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.
Photo credit: Gem Fortune (Pexels.com, Creative Commons 0)