How to Safely Use Free Wireless Internet at Hotels

By Justin H. Pot

Free wireless Internet at hotels is a convenience, but it's not without a hidden threat---almost all hotel wireless is insecure. While the network is easy to connect to, it means everything you do over the wireless is broadcast unencrypted---and that which is broadcast can be intercepted. Keeping your data safe is possible and simple if you know what you're doing.

Step 1

Use a firewall. There are plenty of high-quality free firewalls available online (see Resources). If nothing else, enable the Windows Firewall by opening the Control Panel, clicking "Windows Firewall" and making sure it's turned on. This can help protect you from malicious attacks over the hotel network, and from unauthorized users from seeing data on your computer.

Step 2

Realize that browsing is fine. Hackers can't do much damage by keeping track of which newspapers and Web comics you read on a regular basis, so surf as much as you want.

Step 3

Use common sense. Unsecured wireless is just that: insecure. While logging into Facebook and your email account is relatively safe in these circumstances, avoid logging in to your bank account.

Step 4

Use secure services. If you use Gmail, for example, be sure to use the secure version of the site by typing "" rather than "" This will route your email through SSH (secure shell), giving your data a layer of security. To find out if a service you use regularly offers a secure version, consult that Web service's "Help" page.