Safe Travels, Safe Wi-Fi

It’s getting near spring-break time, and summer vacations will soon follow. You may have seen the reports about wi-fi issues and data security. One of the biggest problems you face is how easy it is to log onto a “fake” wi-fi network – a network that is neither part or your hotel’s system nor secure. But if you pay attention and follow a few simple tips, you can safely stream your favorite content and handle some routine email tasks.

The first and most obvious thing to do is make sure you understand your hotel’s or resort’s log-in information when you check in. Get the proper names of any network that the hotel makes available for you. Then, when you try to log in when you get to your room or sit down at the pool, you can pick out that network from the many that will display when your computers or devices search for the network. Don’t be surprised to see several networks that have spellings or character-and-number sequences that are similar to the networks you were given at check-in.

When you go to log in to the network you’ve selected, you’ll likely be asked for your name and room number. Tip No. 1, don’t enter a correct room number or even a correct name. Misspell your name, if you want. If the network lets you in, then you are not on a legitimate network. If you are denied access with your incorrect info, you should feel confident the network is OK.

Depending on the property’s size and network setup, you may be required to log onto multiple networks. Follow the log-in test for each network. And, most important, make sure everyone in your family or travel group follows that procedure because the breach of one computer or device could compromise everyone in the group.

Also, be aware of network names and connections as you float around. You or one of your family members could inadvertently wind up on an open, unsecured network that can be used to breach your computers or devices to steal information. Tip No. 2, you might want to consider disconnecting from the network when you finish your online session.

Tip No. 3, don’t use a wi-fi network conduct online business, such as credit-card purchases or accessing your bank accounts. You should also avoid wi-fi for logging onto sites related to your health or finances. Instead, use your cellular network. It’s much safer. That may require you to make some additional arrangements with your cellular carrier or to buy and install a SIM card with a data plan for service. However, it’s well worth the time and expense.

Personally, when I travel, I “hotspot” my computer in connection with my cell phone number. It can be expensive (though that’s a relative term), but it removes me from the wi-fi network. So far, hackers have not breached the cellular networks.

Just as a related point, if you are going to depend more on cellular data, make sure you have a plan that will cover your use, and make sure everyone who uses your plan knows its limits. If you’re streaming a lot of video content or gaming, data gets sucked up faster than you can imagine, and charges for exceeding your plan’s limits can be steep.

We can help you prepare for an internet-safe trip or make sure your systems are secure whenever you go remote near your home or office. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment to look at your systems (we can do a lot remotely) and answer your questions.