Public Wifi Tempts by Land and Rail

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Not everyone can afford the brand-new $235 Pocket WiFi — which combines a mobile wifi router with an Android smartphone, with plans starting at about $50 per month – but even if you could, would you be careful about protecting yourself on the road?

public WiFi

After all, unsecured, free wifi often serves as a hotspot for phantom wifi scams and hackers.

But unsecure networks and hotspot security issues might be tagging along on your next trip, whether you like it or not, as more and more companies lure travelers with tempting free wifi.

In attempts to stay competitive with the airline industry, train service and bus companies are going high-tech, installing more electrical plugs to allow riders to charge devices and unveiling free Internet from coast to coast.

Earlier this year, AmtrakConnect was announced aboard all 20 high-speed Acela Express trains between Boston and Washington, DC. Free wifi is also offered inside several stations. Using any laptop or wifi-enabled device, passengers can hop online and even access their corporate networks through most standard virtual private network solutions. Amtrak says it is working on extending the service outside of the Northeast corridor. For now, the only other offering of free wifi is for sleeping car passengers on the Coast Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles.

In contrast, bus company Greyhound offers free wifi to travelers on more than 200 buses, and it is in the process of equipping its entire fleet, including the Canadian buses, with free wifi. In addition, the company says it has put a “brand-new spin” on bus travel by installing electrical outlets to allow passengers to power phones and laptops.

Clearly targeting the college-age demographic traveling between Boston and New York City, GotoBus.com offers modern coach buses that are outfitted with free wifi, among other amenities. And BoltBus — which serves Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC – also offers free wifi.

In the Southeastern United States, the new luxury RedCoach – which serves Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Tallahassee, West Palm Beach, and Atlanta, among other locations – offers free wifi on its 27-passenger buses.

Connected But Careless

While it’s inevitable that every bus, train, and even taxi will likely offer free wifi sooner than later, the key is to stay smart on the go.

Although the new trend is to share your current location by “checking in,” a new study called “Connected But Careless” suggests that only 15% of people know enough about geo-tracking to be able to explain it. This suggests that mobile Internet users may be engaging unknowingly in risky online behavior. In addition, 56% of people surveyed under the age of 35 said they update their social networking status with their location, which can inadvertently broadcast to real-world criminals that they’re not at home.

Over the river and through the woods, no matter where you go, always assume a hacker is eavesdropping on your wifi connection, remember not to enter sensitive data, and always ask yourself whether you are “over sharing” personal details online.

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.