Think twice before you connect to the free hotel wireless network

After a long flight, the first thing we do, as soon as we hit the runway, is switch our phone out of airplane mode and check our messages, emails and make sure we can connect to the local mobile network.

The problem is, this is expensive and most users mobile contract does not offer them free roaming, especially at long-haul destinations. You want to be connected to Wi-Fi as soon as possible.

What’s the first thing we do when we arrive at our new hotel? Search for and connect to the Wi-Fi. Any wireless connection which we think resembles the hotel network. We often try and do this at the airport, too, somewhat care-free about the network we connect to -- as long as it’s free and works, we’re ok, right?

Wrong. Security expert Jim Stickley, reporting on behalf of Today, decided to run a test at a hotel in Cancun, Mexico, to see how easy it is to fool people to connect to a rogue network. With permission from the hotel, where the regular network was called 'FiestaRewards', he setup a 'FiestaRewards Pool' wireless network around the pool area and waited to see who would connect. Stickley’s view was hotel guest would think "we’re at the pool, that must be the stronger signal down here, I’ll use that one" and he’s not wrong. We don’t think, we simply assume.

Not only did people simply connect to the network without double-checking security or asking the hotel whether it was legitimate, people started using the network to pay for online purchases, checking their flights, logging in to their email and carrying out their business from the 'free' network.

As the network was completely unprotected, Stickley was able to extract credit card information, their email address, passwords and much more. It shows how easy it is for any rogue user to simply setup a temporary and fake wireless network, to offer you free access in an airport or other network.

Our advice, like Today, is to be very wary of any unsecure free wireless network, even in official locations such as your hotel. If you can, try and use your mobile network (3G/4G) for access, if you are unsure.

Of course, there are also additional tools you can use to protect yourself on fake and insecure wireless network. Norton’s WiFi Privacy is a tool designed for this very purpose. It creates a secure channeled bank-grade encryption between you and the wireless network, so everything you send is secure and cannot be accessed even by a rogue wireless network handler.

If you’re in the European Union, our partner technology store, is giving away Norton WiFi Privacy free, worth €49.99, with every purchase of Norton Security Deluxe 2018. Get yourself over to the Downloadcrew Software Store for this offer.

Download the Norton Security Deluxe 2018 trial for additional protection.

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