Connecting to an open wireless network – free wi-fi can be convenient — and it help you avoid data overage fees from your carrier. There’s a dangerous trade-off, however. You’re exchanging security for that convenience and that’s never a good idea in today’s rapidly-evolving threat landscape.
Traveling? Stay connected, stay safe and stay without roaming.
In its weekly tech advice column, the FBI warned holiday travelers about the danger of using free Wi-Fi networks while traveling — such as those found in hotels or airports. The advice is an old one, given by many others in the past, but one that needs repeating.
“Don’t allow your phone, computer, tablet, or other devices to auto-connect to a free wireless network while you are away from home,” the FBI said.
“This is an open invitation for bad actors to access your device. They then can load malware, steal your passwords and PINs, or even take remote control of your contacts and camera,” the agency said.
What does the FBI recommend as an alternative?
The hotspot feature on your own smartphone, with encryption enabled and a good, strong password that the bad guys won’t be able to guess.
If that’s not an option — say, if you’re getting close to running out of data for the billing cycle — there are still steps you can take to minimize the risks that come with using an open and free Wi-Fi network.
But the FBI also understands that users can’t travel around the world without using any WiFi networks at all.
In these cases, the FBI recommends that users refrain from using a public, free, or untrusted WiFi connection for sensitive operations like checking bank accounts.
“A hacker would love your user ID and password – don’t give it to them,” the FBI said, referring to the fact that attackers can intercept traffic on public WiFi networks.
FBI: USE YOUR MOBILE DATA PLAN INSTEAD
Instead, the FBI recommends that travelers use their phone’s mobile data connection rather than connecting their phone to an untrusted free Wi-Fi network.
If they need to connect a laptop, the FBI says you should create a mobile hotspot via your phone (where the mobile data connection is active), and let your laptop connect to the internet through your phone’s mobile data plan.