Travelling around the world requires you to go to unfamiliar places, but those unfamiliar places should have free WiFi and be secure! How you’re going to find this free WiFi, and be safe, is what I’ll be discussing in this article. Being a world traveller is one things, being hacked whilst on those travels…is not so much fun!
What risk is there on public WiFi?
The risk of free WiFi is that you don’t know exactly how it’s secured. You don’t know if it’s encrypted. You don’t know if it was setup by a hacker who will be able to access your data as freely as you’re sitting here reading this article. This is mostly done through man in the middle attacks where a hacker sets a ‘free’ WiFi access and puts himself between your computer and the router. This allows the hacker to freely access your passwords, banking details, and secret naked pictures with ease. Maybe some of you out there are exhibitionists, but I’m betting most of you would prefer to keep that on those types of pictures on the down low!
Ways to get free WiFi
With the above mentioned caution in mind, here are a few tools and apps that will help you get free WiFi. Each one my not work wherever you’re travelling, but you’ll be sure to find at least one that can help you out.
WiFi Finder is an app available for both Android and iOS. The way that it works is via a database it has stored up. A big database of over 650,000 WiFi hotspots. The drawback to WiFi Finder is that it doesn’t tell you about the availability of the network (some are turned off after business hours), performance and speed, or if there’s a password for it. The last point may mean that it’s free to use, but only if you go into the coffee shop and ask.
A final point is that you should download this before you leave. It’s a data heavy program so you’ll want to get it all downloaded or your unlimited connection at home before venturing out. Be careful when you turn it on as well while mobile, it does use a bit of data.
Fon is a large network of global hotspots, mostly found in the UK, Portugal, Brazil, France, and South Korea. It is also expanding into other areas such as the USA’s East Coast, South Africa, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Poland. That’s a whole lot of hot travel spots covered.
The thing about Fon is that it’s one of those sharing economy apps you’ve heard about. It works by purchasing a Fonera router for around $50. It splits your Internet bandwidth in two:
- Most of the bandwidth is dedicated to your own usage.
- The rest of the bandwidth islet aside for your friends, those you know, and other Fon users.
So you’re giving up some of your bandwidth to friends and strangers. Odd? A little, but the bonus is that when you’re out and about you get to have free access anywhere you find a Fon router. For what it’s worth, it’s all the rye amongst the sharing economy hipster set.
Instabridge works by crowdsourcing nearby free WiFi, and includes a client that let’s you connect through it. You can use Instabridge to connect to the WiFi of your Facebook friends who are using it, as well s public WiFi that has been added. With over 100,00 WiFi hotspots on their service, in dense areas where mobile dat is pricey, you can be sure to find some use with this app.
How it all works is via an interactive map. Those who want to participate, or those who find a new free WiFi hotspot, simply add themselves to the map. You can then connect to the hotspot once you’re in range. It’s a pretty seamless experience with the client included along with the map.
This is an Android app that will automatically locate free WiFi hotspots around you. You’ll be given access to any passwords needed, this comes in pretty handy when you’re strolling by the local cafe, but have no money for a cappuccino or you want to check your email for 2 minutes.
The great thing about the app is that it’s a bit more proactive than most. It will automatically notify you if you’re near one of the 5 million free WiFi hotspots in its database. That’s a whole lot of free WiFi there!
How to protect yourself on all this free WiFi
Ok, so we had fun finding free WiFi hotspots, but how do we protect ourselves? There are hackers out there looking to prey on people who are looking to connect to free WiFi. Many of those people wind up paying via identity fraud, account hacking, and bank fraud.
The easiest way to protect yourself is with a highly rated VPN provider, which our website can help you find. This tool will encrypt your data, both going in and out, so that a hacker can go right ahead and steal it all they want – but they’ll never be able to make sense of the jumbled text! Most VPNs will use a level of encryption so high that not even the NSA can do a live hack of the data.
The bonus with a VPN is how it can also work to get past geo-blocks. You may not realise this while living in the USA, where so many geoblocks exist for outsiders, but once you leave your country you may find yourself blocked from watching content. Comedy Central, Hulu, Netflix, and many others all have geoblocks on their content. A VPN can get you past this as it’s able to imitate the IP address of a server within your country and trick the website into thinking you never left!
The last ways to protect yourself when using any of the free WiFi hotspots you find using the above apps included some common sense tips:
- If a free WiFi hotspot is associated with a business, don’t be afraid to ask them if it’s the right connection. It may say ‘Free Starbucks WiFi!’ but that doesn’t mean that Starbucks set it up. My WiFi comes up as ‘BadManBeatsHackers,’ but that doesn’t mean I actually beat anyone…anymore.
- Never trust a free WiFi hotspot that asks you to set up an account. What frequently happens here is that many people use the same signing and password for everything they do. Hackers know this. They’ll take the signing you used for that ‘free’ WiFi and use it to try to sign into eBay, iTunes, Amazon, and other websites that have money associated with them.
- Duh, don’t transmit anything that’s very sensitive over an unknown free WiFi network. Why risk sending your bank details over a network you don’t know when you could just wait until you get to the hotel network that has been confirmed as good?
Following this guide will have given the ability to locate free WiFi hotspots across the world, while also giving you the tools to protect yourself. Getting all the free Internet in the world won’t mean a thing unless you protect yourself. Be sure to practice safe surfing while you’re travelling out there in the big scary world!
Marcus is the writer for the Best VPN Provider’s Internet Security Blog. You can find him there every Wednesday with the latest news from the world of digital security. For the Twitter lovers, follow @bestvpns for updates all day, every day.