How secure are hotel and free wifi hotspots?
In short, it is not possible to be 100% confident that using somebody else's Wi-Fi connection will be entirely secure. There is a range of different methods that either the owner of the Wi-Fi network or other people in the surrounding areas can potentially snoop on your activities. The only way to be totally confident that your Wi-Fi hotspot is secure and encrypted is to bring your own.
Quite simply encryption scrambles the information that you send (and receive) over the Internet in a way that only the intended recipient can decipher. This helps to make sure that others in the general area can't use special tools to pluck the information right out of the air and potentially steal your passwords, email, banking details and more.
The way to know if a Wi-Fi connection is secured or not can be easily shown on a Windows computer by hovering your mouse over the SSID (name of the Wi-Fi connection). If it shows the security type to be "unsecured" then I would be very hesitant in using it. On these connections not only could the owner of the Wi-Fi network spy on your connection, but so could anyone else with a little bit of knowledge.
Some websites are encrypted, these show as HTTPS in the address (rather than just HTTP). It is important to remember that any page that doesn't show HTTPS is not encrypted and that means that whatever you send from that page could be spied on.
Websites such as banks, PayPal and other sites that deal with personal information should have all pages where personal information is sent or received under HTTPS protection.
It's far more difficult from a phone to tell if a connection is secure. Mobile apps for example don't show if there are connection is HTTPS or simply HTTP and so it is difficult to be certain on somebody else's network that your data is protected. Bear in mind that simply because from your computer a particular website offers HTTPS protection, that doesn't mean that a mobile app necessarily has the same level of protection.
The best way to make sure that you are protected is to always assume that there may be somebody watching. The only way to be fully confident that your Internet connection is secure is by accessing from a secure connection. What that really means is that you have to trust the provider of the Wi-Fi hotspot with your security. It's this reason that cafes, restaurants and other places commonly offering free Wi-Fi may not have taken the necessary precautions to protect their networks. 3G and 4G on the other hand are only accessible to yourself and are fully encrypted all the time by default.
If you travel frequently and find that you need to access secure information such as corporate email, Internet banking or other sensitive information it is highly recommended to bring your own secure network with you. We offer a secure hotspot that operates off 3G and provides very cost-effective and convenient portable Wi-Fi. If it something that you just need the occasional data access from your mobile phone then one of our SIM products may be ideal.