The Motel Life: Trusting WiFiCPolgar3/30/14 11:04amFiled to: the motel lifemacongeorgiawifi21EditPromoteShare to KinjaGo to permalinkI am writing this from Room 216 of the Econo Lodge in Macon, Georgia. The place looks a bit rundown, but it's well-situated (about a mile north of downtown), has large rooms, and - with the exception of the guy who started yelling, "fuck off, ho - find another ride home!", repeatedly at around 3 in the morning last night - is fairly quiet for a motel off the side of the interstate.AdvertisementIt's cheap, too - less than 40 bucks a night. When I was doing my original search for a place to stay in Macon, it was the cheapest option that came up. While driving to the motel, though, I did see a cheaper option - an extended stay place that was $25 a night, or $99 for the week, which is ridiculously cheap. I noticed the place because I had no choice but to stop next to it - a school bus was in front of me, dropping off 7 or 8 kids who started making their way to the extended stay place's entrance. That sight ended up really bumming me out, which is why I stuck with my original reservation instead of switching to the cheaper-but-holy-crap-how-depressing-would-my-weekend-end-up-being option.As I was checking in at the Econo Lodge, the front desk clerk gave me the usual spiel about breakfast hours, laundry room availability, and check-out time. She also told me that the WiFi was free and didn't require a password - just find the network called 'EconoLodge' and connect.AdvertisementOnce in my room, I opened up my laptop and checked the WiFi options. There were two relevant options - 'EconoLodge - Main' and 'EconoLodge5'. I tried both. They both sucked - incredibly slow connections that would drop off frequently, bringing up the painful specter of a Netflix-free weekend. I wonder how fast the WiFi is at the extended stay place? Do they even have WiFi? God, that place looked so sad.My laptop showed a third option. It was generically-called 'NETGEAR', and also required no password. I gave it a shot - it works wonderfully. Look Who's Talking Too on Netflix, here I come!Now, I read enough of Lifehacker to know that an open, unsecured WiFi network - especially one whose source is unknown - should best be avoided. 'NETGEAR' could just be another one of the motel's WiFi networks, added to compensate for the suckiness of the other networks, but never renamed to indicate as such. OR some nefarious being could have set up shop at the abandoned Chinese restaurant next door, established an open network by [insert technical computer jargon here], and is currently hoovering up every letter I type, snatching all my passwords when I check my bank account and credit card statement, and laughing along with me when Eddie tells baby Mikey to beware of Mr. Toilet Man. SponsoredShould I be concerned about this? Yeah, probably a little bit, at least.Do I care? Not at all.AdvertisementAnd why not, dum dum? Because a nefarious being at an abandoned Chinese restaurant probably won't get much out of stealing the personal information of people staying at a $35-a-night motel. In other words, there are juicier, more fruitful (or juicy-fruitful) targets out there, so I ain't losing sleep over this. That's naive of me, I know, but - after so many years of using unsecured motel WiFi without incident - I'm comfortable with my choice.What about you, though? What if you're the paranoid type who (foolishly) thinks my blasé attitude towards open WiFi networks is a disaster waiting to happen, and who wouldn't dare do likewise? AdvertisementHere's my advise to you, nutjob, which can also apply to situations outside of cheap motels (coffeeshops, fast food restaurants, and the like):1) Consider a VPN (Virtual Private Network). These will encrypt your data so no one can scoop it up. Most of them have a monthly fee. Most will also slow down your connection, though whether you notice it or not will depend on the speed of your connection. Lifehacker can explain this better, though it will also end up increasing your paranoia about the issue. Have fun with that.ShareTweet Kinja is in read-only mode. We are working to restore service.