Connecting to outside Wi-Fi networks can be dangerous

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- More than 40 million Americans traveled over the holiday weekend, and those that travel must be sure to be careful when it comes to connecting to Wi-Fi networks.

Wi-Fi is available at hotels, cafes, planes, trains and seemingly everywhere in between, but connecting to Wi-Fi networks can be risky. Most Wi-Fi users know to use more caution when using a free hotspot. However, paying to use a connection at a hotel, airport or plane can create a false sense of security.

"Whether it's paid or not, whether there's a password involved or not, nearly all of them are completely unsecure. The reason that Wi-Fi hotspots put passwords on their Wi-Fi is not to protect the individual, but rather to limit usage," Kent Lawson said.

Lawson is with Private Wi-Fi, a service and mobile app aimed at protecting Wi-Fi users. He recommends travelers confirm the name of a hotel or restaurant's hotspot with the establishment's staff, disable features on a mobile device that automatically connect to any network within range, don't connect to ad hoc networks because there's no way to tell if they're secure, and turn off a device's Wi-Fi connection when not in use.

Another option is a VPN -- or Virtual Private Network, which creates a secure network within a Wi-Fi connection -- usually by logging in through a website.