I'm planning on traveling to a resort in Mexico. The resort offers wifi, but I know someone who recently traveled to this resort and had their phone hacked via the wifi network. I would be wanting to use the wifi for browsing the web or playing games but am worried that, since I have my phone connected with my email and banking, that I might get hacked by using it. Is there a way to disconnect from these services and remove sensitive data from my phone prior to traveling? Or in general, any way to keep my phone safe while still enjoying wifi?
This problem is solved by using a VPN. Using a VPN, your data is not visible in plain-text to someone who is capturing the network traffic.
Depending on how "techie" you are, you have various options.
- If you are not technology savvy, look for a VPN service. There are a lot out there, but product recommendation is out of the scope of stackexchange. Just be aware to not use any free provider.
- If you are proficient with computers, you can create your own VPN server using a cloud provider (AWS for instance). A common software used in this case is OpenVPN. A good thing of AWS is that there is available a preconfigured virtual machine (AMI). Here you have a tutorial to set everything up.
Using a VPN is good if by "hacked", you meant that the web traffic was seen by a third party. (*) However, if you meant by "hacked" that a virus was installed on the cell phone via the hotel wifi, it is different. They cell phone software might have a vulnerability, that could be well-known or not. I suggest updating to the latest version your cell phone software BEFORE you get to the resort. But if you suspect the network has been compromised, I would suggest that you don't connect to it.
(*) A VPN encrypt traffic between your phone and a trusted server. This will stop attacks known as man in the middle attacks. But, today, most websites use HTTPS, and this means your traffic is ALREADY encrypted from your phone to the website. And if the Bon provider can't be trusted, you are giving him a way to see all the traffic that get past your device ! (If using https, he will still see the traffic as encrypted. But, if you connect to unsecured websites, this only move the man in the middle problem to the providers end.)
You could use a VPN service. This will protect all data sent between your phone and the VPN service.