How to protect your data when using guest wifi

How To | Technology

Written by Mike Ianiri of Equinox

If you’re on a business trip and staying in a hotel there’s a good chance you’ll use the hotel WiFi to get connected.

The hotel industry is one of the top sectors to suffer data breaches – which is a major concern when you consider how much information hotels have: your name, address, passport details, credit card details, car registration plates and more.

As you connect to the WiFi network you’re required to enter personal details. Where does this go? Most Guest WiFI access has a software that sits behind the access points and stores all this information. It’s not hard to imagine the catastrophic repercussions if cybercriminals get access.

So, how can you protect yourself when travelling and considering using hotel and other public WiFi spots?

Tethering

Public WiFi networks are rarely secure and often used by hackers to gather data they shouldn’t. We recommend, wherever possible, to connect to the internet via your mobile phone. Use your data allowance, and the security built into your phone, instead of a public network. Mobile data is becoming cheaper and cheaper:

  • Vodafone has a 20Gb data SIM only contract for £20 per month
  • O2 are selling 32Gb of data for £26 per month

If the signal is poor you’ll need another option.

Use a VPN connection

If you cannot get a secure internet connection, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection is the next best thing. This allows you to connect to your company network by creating a secure “tunnel” between your laptop and your network. This stops others from accessing your data.

To create a VPN, contact your IT department. They’ll probably have a preferred software application for this. If you want to use the Windows VPN tool, you will need the names and IP addresses of the server(s) you wish to connect to.

RFID Shield Wallets

In Public places, such as hotels, thieves can easily steal your card information by skimming. With near-field communication (NFC) technology, they don’t even have to get hold of the card anymore; simply get close to it.  Passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) protection comes in the form of a shield (credit card sized) that slides into your wallet next to your cards or there are now wallets with this tech built into the material. More active solutions, using other radio frequencies, will actively block the signal used by the skimmers.

Don’t be discovered

When you do log into a public WiFi, it will sometimes ask you if you wish to be discovered, or visible, to others on the network. Always say No. While you’re at it, turn off file and print sharing so that nobody can send or receive files from you across the WiFi.

Don’t leave them alone

You’re in a hotel, or coffee shop, do you leave your devices when you go to the restroom? It’s not worth the risk so keep them with you. It is inconvenient, but it’s far less inconvenient that explaining to your boss that there’s been a data breach which as to be reported to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) with 72 hours.

GDPR and data security have only made it more important to protect your data. Fines and paperwork are painful but losing your company’s intellectual property and the trust of your clients that will hurt even more. None of these steps are difficult with a little planning, so take steps to keep your data protected – always.

Did you enjoy reading this content?  To get more great content like this subscribe to our magazine

Reader's Comments

Comments related to the current article

2 thoughts on “How to protect your data when using guest wifi

  1. Tony says:

    Bottom line: If you’re traveling, use a VPN. I have ExpressVPN installed on both my phone and laptop.

  2. jingle bells says:

    I never shop online with my main card, never use the main email address and I always have nordvpn on so nobody could access my devices. I think these steps should be made not only for public wifi there are many more risks out there.

Leave a comment