September 9, 2018
Recently, I have been asked how I traveled in the trailer and worked – that is, got internet access from the road. If you have read some of this site you will see a post called Hacked. When I was hacked I lost many blog posts – at least the ones I had not created in WORD first, including the details of what specific products I was using for on-the-road internet. But, it doesn’t matter because so much has changed in just a few years. Here ‘s what you need to know.
First: Do not use public WiFI! Now days you can buy a VPN if you plan on just using your computer briefly while stopped at a restaurant or coffee shop. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that lets you access the web safely and privately by routing your connection through a server and hiding your online actions. Yes, there is a fee but typically it’s reasonable and you can get them from many places including your cell phone provider without even leaving your house. Read more: A beginner’g guide
Wait? Why shouldn’t I use public WiFi? While business owners may believe they’re providing a valuable service to their customers, chances are the security on the network is lax or nonexistent. There are so many ways to get hacked now…
For instance: One of the most common threats on these networks is called a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack. Essentially, a MitM attack is a form of eavesdropping. When a computer makes a connection to the Internet, data is sent from point A (your computer) to point B (service/website), and vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to get in between these transmissions and “read” them. So what you thought was private no longer is.
Unencrypted networks: Most routers are shipped from the factory with encryption turned off by default, and it must be turned on when the network is set up. If an IT professional sets up the network, then it is possible (but not certain) that encryption has been enabled. However, there is no sure way to tell if this has happened at some local coffee shop.
Software vulnerabilities: Thanks to the many types of software vulnerabilities, there are also ways that attackers can slip malware onto your computer without you even knowing. A software vulnerability is a security hole or weakness found in an operating system or a software program. Your computer is particularly vulnerable if it is old (more than 5-6 years) and you have not updated the operating system. If your computer is always running slow, it could be a sign you have malware. If you are still running Windows XP, you should consider an upgrade as this operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft and has known security weaknesses.
Rogue access points: A malicious hotspot or “rogue access point” can trick victims into connecting to what they think is a legitimate network because the name sounds reputable. Say you’re staying at the NiceNite Inn and want to connect to the hotel’s WiFi. You may think you’re selecting the correct one when you click on “NiceNite Inn,” but you haven’t. Instead, you’ve just connected to a rogue hotspot set up by cybercriminals who can now view your sensitive information (i.e passwords, bank info, etc.).
Using your computer on the road for work
If you want to use your computer for extended periods of time while at a campsite for instance, then you need mobile internet that is connected through a reputable secure service like your mobile phone provider. That is simpler than it sounds.
You need a good smart phone (not just a mobile phone – a smart-phone). I use Verizon as a provider – but that’s up to you. Before the trip (early 2014) I bought a little box from Verizon called a Jetpack. The first one I used worked well. The second one (the upgraded “better” one I bought to take to Costa Rica in late 2016), stopped working after a few months – which might not have been so bad except that I was still paying for the device! Just like your cell phone, Verizon charges a device fee (often on a 2 year contract) and a fee for the coverage (it is just like having a second cell phone in terms of provider charges). So, that said right there, now days I would recommend you just get a second cell phone that you can use as a hot spot unless you have more advanced needs.
A Jetpack (a Verizon brand) is basically just internet-in-a-box – just like your phone. There are many of these on the market now. You don’t need this device – you can just use your phone as a “hot spot” now, and that’s fine if you don’t want to get calls at the same time. Otherwise, if you want service for a longer time-period, you simply connect the internet-in-a-box device to your computer via a USB port, turn it on…and you are on the internet. However, as with any cell phone coverage, you are limited to the same coverage. For instance, mountain areas get terrible cell coverage – so your Jetpack will too.
Of course note that I am basing all this on Verizon service but all these carriers compete and things are changing all the time with their special “bundles” and “special offers” etc. You know the drill with these companies, so just do your research. What I write here today, may change tomorrow. Just watch out for the bundle pricing, the “free tablets” they want to give you (they are not free), the contracts, etc. And, if you are going out of the country, do even more research. Go to multiple providers and ask the same questions like: is the phone locked? how long is it locked? And, how do I unlock it? The reason the phone needs to be unlocked is so you can remove the Verizon (or who-ever’s) SIM card and replace it with a Costa Rica (or any other country) SIM card while you are traveling. All countries have their own cell phone carriers and you will need to use that country’s service if you want to save money. You can of course, continue to use your US services but that will cost you big time.
Here are few things I researched recently – but please check these yourself. Everything in tech is always changing.
T-Mobile (t-mobile.com) offers attractive plans that let you connect overseas. For example, its Simple Choice Plan offers unlimited data and texting at no extra cost to your plan in more than 140 countries worldwide. Plus, flat-rate calls are just 20 cents a minute. I took my Samsung Galaxy S7 to Mexico recently and used the phone to stay connected. Cool feature: You can text in-flight on planes that use GoGo Inflight Internet. Texting is included in your plan.
Comcast (and other internet providers) now allow you to connect to many hot spots securely as long as you have a Comcast account (or ATT or Cox…). This won’t work outside the US though unless you want to pay the overseas rates.
A woman I know is a freelance writer that travels by plane and car in many countries. She has a total professional set up: a Huawei E5770s-320 mobile hot spot (about $200) that allows her to swap out data (SIM) cards, depending on which country she’s visiting. Every time she crosses a border, she get’s new SIM card. She uses a WiFi booster for more remote areas where WiFi is limited. You can use this same set up for US travel (without a need for a SIM card change).
Finally, the harder part: Electricity. Today, the easy part (but not the cheap part) is mobile internet. The harder part is electricity. You still need to have that to keep the phone (and the TV and the microwave) running when you are camping. If you are dry camping (without any services) your computer and cell charge will die within 24 hours or so. Now days there are ways around that too. For your cell phone there are now extended battery chargers. I have several smaller ones and ones that last 48 hours or so on a charge. They can be found in the corner Walgreens or Target or on Amazon and will keep your cell phone charged. https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Cell-Phones-Accessories-Portable-Phone-Power-Banks/zgbs/wireless/7073960011). Bigger ones will keep your computer charged for another 24-48 hours or so. I don’t know about yours, but my local Best Buy sales reps are very knowledgeable about this kind of thing – so you can start with them.
You can also plug devices into your car battery or into the DC port (the cigarette lighter) in the trailer or RV (most modern trailers have these now). However, be aware that you are using the battery of the trailer or the car and you don’t want to do that for long! Personally, I always thought of using my car or trailer battery only in an emergency situation. The other thing to definitely consider, if you plan on dry camping for longer than a few days, is solar power. If there is sun, you have power and there are lots of options for these now.
Whatever I tell you today may change tomorrow, so go read some information and reviews on Amazon (even if you don’t buy from them).
If you still need more power and traveling overseas — try the Worldsim Tri-Fi (worldsim.com), a pocket-sized combination of hot spot and powerbank (about $200). The Worldsim comes with a data roaming SIM card that can be used to get low-cost data in 188 countries, and it’s unlocked, so you can easily swap out your SIM cards.
Other car travel alternatives: More and more car manufacturers have begun equipping their cars with WiFi. Or you could bring your own wireless device such as the AT&T Unite Explore mobile WiFi hot spot by Netgear (att.com/uniteexplore, $50), a mobile access point that offers up to 22 hours of continuous use on a single charge. If you’re a power user, your plan will run out before the hot spot stops working.
There is no security in your mansions or your fortresses, your family vaults or your banks or your double beds.
Understand this fact, and you will be free.
Accept it, and you will be happy.