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I have never used Airbnb before. I'm trying it out for the first time. For those who don't know, it basically is a company that connects travelers to individuals who are willing to rent rooms in their personal houses, or even the entire house.

Do I put my laptop, phone, iPad, etc at risk of data theft by using my host's network?

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    This has probably been asked many times on security SE, e.g. security.stackexchange.com/questions/34764/… and you'll probably get better answers there than here. Short answer is you're just as safe as using any wi-fi hotspot. Don't use anything except encrypted services or use a VPN – Berwyn Jul 21 '16 at 7:12
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about information security and not travel – blackbird Jul 21 '16 at 13:53
  • Technically, there are risks involved in connecting to any wifi but it seems that in general it's less likely to happen at some random AirBnb hosts than at an airport or a business hotel. – Relaxed Jul 21 '16 at 16:25
  • My suggestion: get a router with a guest network function. A guest network function will keep their network access separated from your network, meaning they cannot access your devices. It also allows you to set speed limits, meaning they can't use all your bandwith (leaving none for you). I can't really imagine AirBnB users trying to hack devices where they are, or their downloads causing problems, but it might be useful if you want to be sure. For example the TP link archer c50 and the archer c2 support this (at respectively €42 and €59), many other manufacturers also include this function. – Bertware Jul 22 '16 at 8:51
  • @Bertware, the OP asked about the risk of his devices being hacked by connecting to a host's network, not the risk of a hosts device's being hacked by a guest. – jcaron Jul 22 '16 at 13:43
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Technically speaking, whenever you connect to any network, you are putting yourself at risk.

In any case, I am telling you use, your risk is magnified, especially when the site/s you are visting aren't using encryption (i.e., HTTPS/TLS). Packets sent wirelessly can be easily viewed from another computer within the same network, using tools such as Wireshark. If no encryption, information sent over the network is available in plain-text.

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As @Berwyn says, I always use a commercial VPN when using an unknown network at a coffee shop or other such place for banking or any other activity that involves a password to log on. Your risk is probably as high or higher at your local Starbucks or independent coffee shop than it is at a random AirBnb host's place.

Note that this is totally different from using an unknown computer that may have a keylogger (hardware or software) or whatever installed (and perhaps by a previous occupant rather than the possibly clueless host).

  • How helpful is this ? You don't even know if the OP is technical enough to use a VPN and how does using a VPN even help him at all – blackbird Jul 21 '16 at 16:50
  • @blackbird57 Here is a short summary of public network security measures that explains it a bit more. I don't think setting up a paid VPN requires any technical expertise, just a credit card and the ability to follow a few simple instructions (at least on MacOS, Windows and iOS, which are all the ones I've used it on). – Spehro Pefhany Jul 21 '16 at 17:00
  • A VPN only goes as far as it reaches. First you need to trust the VPN provider (which can be as dodgy as the wifi of the cafe you are sitting at). Even assuming they are trustful the VPN security ends wherever they release your packets into the wild again. – nsn Jul 21 '16 at 17:24

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