For today's traveller going without internet seems impossible. From checking maps and reviews to connecting with friends and family back home, reliable internet connections are a must. But can you trust public WiFi?
Many campgrounds today offer free WiFi, which is a great choice for casual internet browsing. And when visiting an urban centre like Vancouver, it can be fairly easy to find a spot to check in (for a list of free WiFi in the city, see this interactive map).
Most web experts advise against doing any secure activities (such as online banking, or shopping) on a public WiFi connection. Some go even further to warn against activities that involve any passwords (even checking email) on shared WiFi.
The smart thing to do is to assess the situation. If the business is in a fairly private area (like a secluded campground), has a regular clientele, and changes their password frequently, you're safer than in a busy public area with an unsecured network (accessible by hundreds of people per day).
And a key step is making sure you're connecting to the official WiFi for the business. Ask them to write down the specific name for their WiFi connection (CampgroundGuest1, for instance) so you're in the right place from the start. That's because hackers have been known to set up similar-sounding WiFi names in an attempt to commandeer users. If the business offers a choice between secure (password-protected) and unsecure, most experts advise going with the secure network - even if you have to pay.
Other ways to protect your information include changing your passwords often, keeping passwords long and complicated, and turning off any sharing/connections (to a printer, for instance), while also using any firewalls and protections your computer has built-in to your advantage.
At the end of the day, many travellers connect frequently with few issues. But by taking time to reflect on the security of the situation, and changing your activities accordingly, you should have a safer time communicating on the road.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia