What is the best VPN for travel in 2021? More importantly, why is it advisable to use a VPN when traveling?
When you’re traveling, you likely don’t think twice about using a hotel, coffee shop, or free public wifi hotspot. Doing so is usually free — and more importantly, ultra-convenient.
Sadly, using public wifi hotspots exposes you to several cybersecurity risks. Here, we’ll look at how, as well as what the best VPN for travel is right now in 2021.
It’s a scorching summer day on the idyllic Thailand island of Phuket. You are on vacation and decide to grab an ice-cold coke from a local cafe. Then, as soon as you are sitting comfortably, you start using your phone to scan for a local wifi hotspot.
Finding a hotspot, you connect to see what is trending on social media. All you don’t realize is that as you go online, someone is watching.
It’s not a conspiracy theory. Using public wifi really does expose you to several privacy and security risks when traveling. Cybersecurity experts at Norton even go so far as to say that public hotspots expose people to “tremendous” risks.
First, there is the obvious risk of malicious hotspots. i.e. Just because a hotspot uses the name “Best Western Wifi” doesn’t mean that it is made available by the hotel you are staying in. Worse, a malicious hotspot can be set up in seconds by anyone with a post-2010 circa smartphone.
- Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks – A man-in-the-middle attack takes place when an attacker eavesdrops on otherwise secure wifi connections. Attackers use easily available software to intercept all the data traveling between your device and a local wifi router. This can expose your email address, credit card information, and all the passwords you use to login to supposedly secure websites.
- Wifi Snooping and Sniffing – Similar to a man-in-the-middle attack, snooping and sniffing allows hackers to grab data from the wifi airwaves, that lets them see everything you are doing online. They can see what websites you visit, what
emails you send, and even reconstruct entire files that you might send as attachments over even secure wifi networks.
- Virus and Malware Distribution – It’s a myth that viruses and malware can only infect your device after you download a malicious file or email attachment. If you connect to a malicious or security compromised public wifi hotspot, an
attacker can inject malware directly into your web browser, temp files, and downloads folder.
Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to stay relatively safe when using wifi when traveling.
- Never allow devices to automatically connect to wifi networks, even if you have used hotspots previously.
- Make sure to never connect to unsecured wifi networks. (Networks which don’t require passwords.)
- Try not to log in to security-sensitive websites like your online banking portal, PayPal, or Amazon.
- Never leave wifi or Bluetooth running in the background on your device unless you need to.
- Make sure to never visit websites that do not use HTTPS encryption. (As opposed to just HTTP.)
Don’t rest too easily just yet, though. When you are traveling, being extra security conscious can help minimize the dangers of using public wifi. However, only a VPN can protect you from things like the local government snooping and media censorship.
At present, research shows that fewer than 1 in 5 people verify who owns or operates a public wifi hotspot before connecting. This is alarming. However, so too is the fact that it is not just cybercriminals who you need to worry about when traveling.
In 2019, the government of Thailand began mandating that all Thai coffee shop owners turnover guest wifi data. This means that as of 2019, any excursion you make to Thailand will see the Thai government keep a watch while on holiday, over everything you do online.
Thailand says that it wants to know what tourists are doing online to combat fake news. However, analysis of data has already resulted in the arrest of locals for sharing Facebook posts about subjects as innocuous as Russian history.
Sadly, Thailand’s public wifi monitoring laws are just the tip of a very big security iceberg for travelers. Similar laws exist in countries like China. Worse, some countries even prohibit travelers from using everyday messaging apps like
What is The Best VPN for Travel?
Do you feel unconformable with things like state surveillance when traveling? If so, the easiest way to retain your privacy and security when traveling is to use a travel VPN.
This will help keep you safe while traveling and of course at home too.
Online freelancer, owner of Shielded VPN and long time website creator and designer. Happily married man and father of two amazing boys.