Browsing the internet abroad safely

Internet Security

With criminal gangs prepared to spend vast amounts of money for a whole range of personal information, including: PayPal logins, credit card numbers, hacked Facebook accounts, Amazon accounts, and air mile accounts (Avios, Virgin Flying Club etc.). You need to do everything you can to ensure that your information stays safe and secure whenever you browse the internet.

One method of staying secure is by activating dual-step verification on all your accounts. Doing this ensures that anyone logging into your accounts requires a unique code (usually sent to your phone as a text) together with the password in order to login.

The other way is to encrypt your internet connection, something that is far less known about and shall be the subject of this article.

With a vast number of hotels and public spaces now offering free Wi-Fi connections, combined with the ability for doing everything, from banking to shopping on your phone or tablet; it is important to make sure that hackers cannot intercept your internet connection.

Typically, when you connect to a public Wi-Fi, website information is transmitted between the Wi-Fi router and your device. Since the Wi-Fi transmission is not secure (example 1), anyone else connected to the Wi-Fi can use readily available software to intercept your internet data, potentially revealing passwords, emails and other private data without your consent. This is the case of all public Wi-Fi connections regardless of whether you needed to input a password in order to connect (the password decrypts all Wi-Fi transmissions on a particular network). It is also worth noting that the owner of the Wi-Fi network also has the ability of tracking the specific websites that you have connected to.

Example 1

Securing your internet connection is done by setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These days there are a number of companies that offer a VPN service, with the setup as simple as installing an app or program. Once installed, a VPN creates an encrypted connection to a VPN server which then handles all of your internet requests (example 2). Although the Wi-Fi you are connected to remains unsecure, all the information sent between your device and the VPN server is encrypted preventing other users of the Wi-Fi network from eavesdropping on your connection. Since the public Wi-Fi network is not handling your browsing requests but simply forwarding your connection to the VPN server, the network’s owner is unable to track your browsing history. As such, a VPN connection protects you from a fairly common scam whereby the hacker sets up their own Wi-Fi hotspot pretending to be a public Wi-Fi.

Example 2

Whilst there are a number of free apps that claim to offer a VPN service, it is worth remembering that the VPN Server does have the ability of tracking your internet use. It is for this reason that I would choose a VPN carefully. Many of the paid for services have a vested interest in keeping your data private and secure. Often, these companies add an additional layer of security to prevent them from being able to view the data if asked by governments or law enforcement. However, it is always worth reading their specific privacy policy before signing up.

Although VPNs are legal in many Western countries, their ability to negate state censorship has made their use illegal in less liberal countries such as China, Iran and Russia.

There are a number of VPN services to choose from including:


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Ross Slater

Dr Ross Slater

Ross is Expert with Points' main contributor. Sharing his knowledge of various travel reward schemes, to help your travelling go further.

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