Staying Safe on the Road: Protecting Yourself with Secure Wi-Fi

Traveler at an airport
Safety and security for your home while you’re away is often top of mind when you’re vacation planning. You’ve asked a friend to collect your mail while you’re gone. A neighbor will keep an eye out for any packages that arrive. Your lights are on automatic timers to discourage break-ins. But what about keeping your personal information safe with a secure Wi-Fi network?

In addition to mapping out your trip, an essential part of vacation planning is knowing the safest ways to connect to the internet. Use these tips for all types of trips – work or pleasure, beach or mountains, RV or condo – all year long.

Why is secure Wi-Fi important while traveling?

That free public Wi-Fi at a tourist attraction is tempting, but could it harbor malicious intent? Cybersecurity experts report instances of MITM, or man in the middle, attacks on free networks. These can also be known as “evil twin” attacks.

A MITM attack is an active cyber threat during which the attacker intercepts and modifies your data to later pose as you to commit additional fraud or theft.

In an evil twin attack, criminals create a seemingly safe Wi-Fi access point to steal information. Users who connect to one of those spots have their sensitive information compromised without their knowledge.

Signs of a Compromised Wi-Fi Network

Icon for Signs of a Compromised Wi-Fi Network
Icon for Signs of a Compromised Wi-Fi Network
  • Unexpected or repeated disconnections
  • Connections to unfamiliar locations
  • Unusual addresses in the browser address bar
  • Similar Wi-Fi network names (HiltonGuest vs HiltonGuests)
The 2023 Guide to Traveling on a Budget

How do I protect my device while traveling?

Now that you know about the dangers of unsecured Wi-Fi, you’re ready to take steps to protect your devices and information. Even those who are not very tech-savvy can take basic measures.

Turn off sharing and automatic Wi-Fi

Your laptop may be set to file share without your knowledge, so checking this feature is vital, especially for those working on confidential company files.

For your mobile device, turn off Wi-Fi to prevent your phone from automatically joining open networks. Scammers may target busy shopping areas with public Wi-Fi to try and capture payment information.

Remember: your cellular data network will be safer than any public Wi-Fi connection.

Avoid using passwords

Instead of logging into user accounts with individual passwords, try to use alternate login options like biometrics. Before traveling, enable facial recognition and/or fingerprints for any apps or accounts that allow biometric login.

Don’t share personal data

If at all possible, save any purchases, online banking or paying bills for when you return home.

If you must conduct personal business while away from your regular secured network, be sure to enable two-factor authentication, especially for online banking. This puts up another roadblock for someone trying to steal information.

How can I secure my Wi-Fi connection while traveling?

For added layers of security while browsing on the go, there are financially friendly ways to protect your devices to browse and stream with peace of mind.


If you’re traveling with a group, one person could designate their device as a hotspot for the group to use. You can typically find hotspot settings on your device by looking for the words “sharing,” “network,” or “tethering.”

Those who travel to more remote locations or travel often may benefit from their own personal hotspot from their mobile carrier. This will come with a monthly cost, money or data, but it features a secure connection that can be used for multiple devices.


Investing in a VPN (virtual private network) is another way to safeguard your data. Think of the VPN as a private tunnel between your device and the server that’s encrypting your information as you go. There are free VPN options available, but most VPN subscriptions begin at only a few dollars a month and are offered by trusted sources like Norton.

Learn more about travel rewards credit cards offered by SouthState.

Alex Cummings is the Information Security Awareness Program Manager for SouthState, overseeing information security training and communication. He studied computer information systems at the University of South Carolina, where he started the Cyber Security Club and was recognized in several regional and national competitions.

  • This content is general in nature and provided for informational use only. Content may be used in connection with the advertising and marketing of products and services offered by SouthState Bank, N.A. and its subsidiaries and affiliates. This is not to be considered legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You should seek individualized advice from personal financial, legal, tax and/or other professionals, as appropriate depending on the specific facts of your situation. We do not make any warranties as to the completeness or accuracy of this information and have no liability for your use of this information.

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