Beware of Free WiFi Tourist Trap While Traveling
On the surface, places with free WiFi seem like a great idea. If you’re traveling (whether domestically or internationally), they give you the chance to check your socials without using your valuable data.
However, using free WiFi is a common tourist trap for hackers. Read on to find out why and what you can do to avoid it.
Why Is Free WiFi Dangerous?
Free WiFi networks are dangerous because they’re usually unsecured. In more specific terms, it means they’re unencrypted, so there’s nothing stopping someone from accessing your personal data. A WiFi hack is a pretty easy thing to do if you know how, and it can get you loads of valuable information.
Ways Hackers Can Get Your Personal Data
There are many ways that hackers can access your personal data in places with free WiFi. However, the most common are:
Put simply, a rogue hotspot is one that a hacker sets up to look like a valid option. For example, you might find one called “McDonalds free WiFi” that, on the surface, looks perfectly legit.
However, these networks are set up by hackers (also known as the Evil Twin setup) so they can eavesdrop on your connection. It means you still get access to the internet and it doesn’t look like anything is wrong. But the hackers can access loads of information on your phone, such as banking details and card information.
Man in the Middle Attack
Also known as MitM attack, this is when a hacker uses software to intercept your connection with the WiFi network. Think of it like picking up a phone while someone else is on a call: you can hear everything they’re saying but they might not know you’re there.
An important point for this method is that they won’t necessarily steal data you don’t use. For example, they’ll only have a password when you type it in rather than them finding it on your device.
A hacker can exploit security vulnerabilities in a WiFi network to take over its administrator settings. From there, they can redirect connected devices to web pages that cause them to download malware onto their devices. This malware can then let them access passwords and other sensitive data.
Beware of Free WiFi Hubs: The Dangers
So, what are the actual dangers of using places with free WiFi? Saying a hacker can steal your data doesn’t mean much to most people because it’s not a quantifiable statistic. Here are some examples of what can happen when you connect to free WiFi and why you should avoid it.
1. Identity Theft
This is a fairly straightforward danger. If a hacker can gather enough information about you from an unsecured network, they can steal your online identity. For example, they can obtain your location history, device information, and more. They can then turn this into cyberattacks and phishing emails, or use your information to search for your passwords on the Dark Web (if they’ve been stolen).
2. Password Theft
Another simple danger is password theft. This could either be through eavesdropping, as described above, or through brute force attacks. In these, a hacker obtains your usernames or email address and then just tries every possible password they can through a computer program.
3. Ransomware and Malware
Generally, ransomware and malware require your device to download the initial file that installs these programs. However, this is perfectly possible through a WiFi hack. Hackers simply redirect your device and create files that look legitimate. Once installed, they can shut down your device or use gathered information for blackmail.
Ultimately, the dangers of using free WiFi come down to data loss. It can be a massive issue at any time, but is particularly bad when you’re traveling. This is why fake WiFi hotspots are a common tourist trap. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, it can be more difficult to determine whether a free network is legitimate.
For example, if you search “coffee shop with free WiFi near me” when traveling, you won’t know whether that café’s network is the real one or not. It’s therefore best to avoid connecting to free WiFi networks wherever possible.
Use a VPN on Public WiFi for Travel
Of course, if you must connect to a free public network, make sure you use a VPN. A VPN for travel is one of the best decisions you can make because it helps keep you safe online. But how does it work?
A VPN is a virtual proxy network. Without getting into the specifics, it sets up a “fake” location for your device, but it does even more important things when it comes to device security.
First, a VPN encrypts your information, meaning it’s secure between your device and the web page or app you’re visiting. As such, hackers can’t eavesdrop on what you’re sending, even on a network they’ve accessed.
Second, a VPN hides your device’s IP address. As you may know, this is a necessary bit of information for identifying your device. Without it, a hacker won’t be able to link any information they can gather to the sender or receiver. In this case, they’ll just see the IP address of the VPN server you’re using, which could be anywhere in the world.
Use a VPN with a Reliable eSIM for Travel
Other than using a VPN for travel, a viable option is to set up an eSIM on your device. Textr eSIM allows you to purchase daily data allowances as you travel at some of the cheapest prices you’ll find. Better yet, we only use the fastest and most reliable local networks, so you shouldn’t have to look for places with free WiFi!
There are plenty more benefits to using Textr eSIM that make it perfect for travelling and staying in touch with friends and family. Check out our international plans to see what kind of coverage we offer.
Download Textr eSIM today on your device to get ready for your next trip!
About the Writer
As a blogger, traveler, and food lover, I'm always on the hunt for new taste sensations. I'm excited to share my tips and tricks to help you have the most memorable travels. Come along and let's savor the journey!