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A family member is traveling to a conference and will need to use the convention hall's wifi on both a macOS Sierra laptop and an Android 6.0 Marshmallow phone for web browsing and WhatsApp. How can I best prepare her devices for securely using the conference's wifi network?

  • Google "VPN providers" - This is what you need – ISMSDEV Jul 3 '17 at 10:56
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    @ISMSDEV I'm given to understand that VPN use is just changing which group of strangers one is trusting with one's information, and that much of their services are available by, eg, https. Perhaps you can expand your suggestion into a full answer explaining why VPN is the way to go, so your solution can enter the voting-and-sorting system which differentiates the Stack from other sites. – BESW Jul 3 '17 at 11:08
  • Your question is too vague in my opinion, who exactly do you want to secure your devices from? – user633551 Jul 3 '17 at 14:07
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    @user633551 I don't know. Is it not appropriate to assume security experts answering this question would know the kinds of threats that situation poses? Or should I first have asked "What security threats do I need to defend against when connecting to an effectively open wifi network at a large international convention?" before asking how to defend against them? – BESW Jul 3 '17 at 14:17
  • @BESW By reading your comment below, one would think you have 3rd party trust issues. If you want to protect your info from other clients inside a LAN, use VPN because in this case the only traffic, which will be encrypted btw, will be seen from your device to a VPN address. Pretty straightforward. Still you need to trust your VPN provider though...It might also be a good idea to deny access on all but needed ports on your device, so in your case you should allow ports 80 and 443, the rest should be disabled. A somewhat basic protection against spying and accessing your device inside a LAN. – user633551 Jul 3 '17 at 14:47
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A VPN solution would be suitable here. It allows your family member to connect to any public (in your example conference) wifi hotspot and have all their internet traffic protected from being snooped on or otherwise interfered with.

You mention in the comments at the top about trust. Yes a VPN moves the who you trust to someone else. But then that applies to anything on the internet, including which ISP you trust to connect to the internet to start with. If you use an OpenVPN solution you could setup a VPN host at your home and get them to connect to that. That way they will be using your internet. But personally if you do not know how to do that I would suggest using one of the many VPN providers on the internet, some free some paid for.

Also make sure their device has been patched with an AV and firewall enabled to stop local traffic attempting to access their laptop.

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There are multiple attack vectors here.

  1. Sniffing the traffic coming from your machine (MITM) in order to steal sensitive information (credentials, credit cards...). A VPN would add a layer of encryption and while your traffic could be intercepted, it would not be decrypted (so would not be of any use for a malicious person)

  2. Compromising your laptop or devices in order to gain access to it. Turning on a host firewall and blocking all incoming traffic would help. Configuring a firewall does require to understand which traffic is essential and should not be blocked, and which one can be blocked. Using security softwares on the endpoint would also reduce the risk of exploring a vulnerability on your machine.

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A good way to secure your devices is to have some form of antivirus and malware protection on both Android and Mac. Make sure when downloading anything, to confirm that the link is safe or better yet, during the duration of conference if not necessary just to not downloading anything at all.

This website has some pretty good advice on how to be safe while using essentially public wifi:

http://fieldguide.gizmodo.com/how-to-stay-safe-on-public-wifi-1779464400

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    It's important to include the critical parts of the link in your answer. We don't want link rot on our stack exchange answers, and answers that just point a reader elsewhere for the important information are considered link-only answers (which often get deleted). Could you update this to include the relevant advice about staying safe in your answer itself? – doppelgreener Jul 3 '17 at 11:57
  • Downloads are the least of your worries on public wifi as your link even talks about. – schroeder Jul 3 '17 at 13:11

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