Avoiding Free Wifi Scams While Traveling

Most people spend a lot of time on the Internet while they are traveling. They often want to log into Facebook or handle online business transactions while they are waiting at the airport or staying at their hotel. Unfortunately, a number of scammers have recently started using mobile hotspots to entrap unsuspecting travelers. You will need to understand how these scams work and take the necessary measures to protect yourself.

How Do Wi-Fi Hotspot Scams Work?

You may be tempted to login to a free wifi hotspot rather than going to Starbucks or paying a fee to have a secure connection somewhere else. Many scam artists know that many people don’t know where they can get Internet access and will usually choose the first thing that shows up in their network administration panel. They will often create free wifi hotspots to phish data from unsuspecting travelers.

Josh Larsen is a technology expert with a well-known security firm in California. Larsen said that free hotspots are an easy way for hackers to gain access to people’s computers. They can set one up in less than a couple of minutes and most people never see anything malicious about them.

The hackers who set these up use very sophisticated technology to capture all of the data that people enter. It is almost as effective as installing keylogging software directly on the person’s machine. Hackers are even able to disguise the hotspot as a legitimate web portal. Some of them have even made the wifi look like the one used at a local coffee shop or hotel. Most businesses are aware of these scams and try to shut down any hotspots that use their name. However, you will need to be on your guard either way.

Tips to Protect Yourself

The reason that people get scammed is because they transmit data openly on an unsecured network. You can drastically reduce your chances of being exploited if you take the right steps.

First of all, you should only login through a secure connection. The mobile hotspots that scammers setup for phishing purposes are almost invariably http connections. You will be much safer if you login to a network that uses a https connection instead.

You should also try to authenticate any network before logging into it. You will be a lot safer if you are trying to login to the wifi at a hotel or coffee shop. You can ask the employees what the name of the network is that you are trying to login to. Look very carefully at the network name before logging in, because clever scam artists will try use a similar name to dupe people into thinking they are logging into a legitimate network.

You will also need to make sure that your computer or smartphone device is setup to be as secure as possible. You will need to make sure that your malware protection software is as up-to-date as possible. You should also make sure that any automatic wifi connections are disabled.

Online criminals try to take advantage of careless travelers who don’t take the measures to protect themselves. You will be much safer if you understand the risks and mitigate them as much as possible.

About the author: Kalen is a travel and technology writer. He stayed at Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls Fallsview when he was attending a seminar on IT security tips last summer.