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Tech traveller: Keep it safe

The free wi-fi offered by many holiday accommodation hosts may not be as safe and secure as you think. You’d be wise to consider a VPN (virtual private network) instead

Tech traveller: Keep it safe
Credit: Getty

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Half a million people book accommodation through Airbnb every day, and many hosts offer all the mod cons, including wi-fi internet access. We’ve talked about public wi-fi safety before, and you might think that password-protected connections in your Airbnb home are safer. But beware; your host and any guests who’ve stayed in the apartment previously may also have the password. This could be used to snoop on your internet activity, resulting in stolen login details and passwords for any services you use while connected.

Using a VPN — or virtual private network — helps you browse more anonymously by routing your traffic through a server that isn’t your point of origin. It’s a bit like switching cars to shake off someone who’s tailing you. Many VPN services have apps for Android and iOS, and these can also offer security while using popular apps such as Tinder and Pokémon Go when out and about. Remember to also protect any laptops you connect to the wi-fi router.

Most VPNs work in a similar way, allowing you to select from a range of connection locations that you want to appear to be from. Some people use this to get around geographical restrictions on streaming services such as iPlayer and Netflix, but bear in mind that bypassing copyright restrictions is against the law.

If you’re looking for private browsing, Tunnel Bear is fast and easy to use. There’s a free service providing 500MB data traffic per month — which won’t last long if you’re streaming video. You can pay $7.99 (£6) per month or $50 (£40) a year for unlimited data. NordVPN has great service and military grade encryption that costs $70 (£56) a year.

Kate Russell is technology reporter for @BBCClick and author of Working the Cloud

Published in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)