The problem is that, thanks to the rise of home-sharing services such as Airbnb and HomeAway, thousands of people are letting strangers into their houses and apartments, and, potentially, into their networks and routers.
That’s why, Galloway argues, we need to be careful when connecting to Wi-Fi networks in Airbnbs, and just treat them like we treat airport or Starbucks connections.
“When you’re traveling and you’re on an unfamiliar network, you should behave like it and not behave like when you’re at home,” Galloway says. “You don’t use the Airbnb toothbrush, and you should probably think twice before just jumping on their network and putting your bank credentials in there.”
If you’re a renter, Galloway says the first thing to do to stay safe is using a virtual private network, or VPN, that will encrypt and protect all your connections. (There’s a lot of easy to use options out there, such as Freedome or TunnelBear.) Another, slightly more complex precaution, is to hardcode DNS settings into their devices, switching to Google Public DNS, for example.
I don’t disagree with this advice but admit it’s only something I consider when travelling for work (in part because I do so few ‘risky’ things when vacationing and decision to mostly rely on apps which I hope – though often cannot know – are transmitting credentials over SSL). But more broadly I think that what is being argued for is out of touch with how people are generally taught to understand computing and out of touch with how most Airbnb hosts operate: guests rarely meet their host and it’s unclear how often hosts themselves ever really look in on their properties. So maybe before we insist that people be wary of landlords and Airbnb hosts we should be considering what baseline requirements for offering such services themselves should be.