Hackers pose a threat to public Wi-Fi users – with some simple security measures, you can protect yourself. The recent widespread availability of free public Wi-Fi has been a huge convenience
You’re never more than a short trip away from access to a network and your work thanks to the prevalence of free Wi-Fi hotspots in public places including cafes, hotels, and airports.
However, few people realise the dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks despite their widespread use. Your sensitive information will be safe from harm if you take the time to learn about easy security precautions.
Warnings About Using Free Public Wi-Fi
You probably enjoy keeping in touch with friends and family no matter where you are. That’s why it’s tempting to get on a free public Wi-Fi hotspot but beware: these networks can come with a high security risk.
Encryption, a security precaution that makes it so no one else can read data sent from your computer or device to the router, is often unavailable on public Wi-Fi networks. Your data in transit across these networks is vulnerable to interception by cybercriminals if this safeguard is not in place.
Your usernames and passwords for financial and social media accounts, along with other personal data, could be at risk.
An inquisitive cybercriminal might possibly pry into your life by monitoring the websites you visit and the information you enter into online forms.
Information theft across unprotected networks is surprisingly simple. Internet criminals occasionally exploit public places like airports to plant fraudulent Wi-Fi hotspots in an effort to steal users’ personal data.
Use SSL Connections +VPN
Websites that begin with “HTTPS” are more secure than those that begin with “HTTP,” so use them if you need to enter sensitive information (such as bank account number) while shopping or checking your bank account balance. Seeing the “S” signifies that your data is encrypted and safe on this site.
Moreover, if you see a little green lock at the address bar of your browser, you can be assured that your data transfer with the website in question is encrypted.
You can bypass the Wi-Fi network entirely and connect using the cellular network on your mobile device. It adds a layer of protection against data theft because hackers can’t just eavesdrop on your network traffic to learn what you’re doing.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) software provides a way to make an encrypted connection to a remote network via the Internet, which can be useful if you travel frequently.
Whoever is trying to snoop on you will only be able to see that you are connected to the VPN and nothing more.
Turn off Wi-Fi when it’s not in use.
In the background, your computer’s Wi-Fi hardware is communicating with other networks in range even if you haven’t initiated a connection.
There are safeguards in place to prevent even this seemingly innocuous exchange from jeopardising your security, but not all wireless routers are created equal, and hackers can be quite resourceful.
Turn Wi-Fi off if you’re only using your computer to work on a Microsoft Word or Excel project. As an added advantage, you may expect a significantly longer battery life.
Remembering that utilising public Wi-Fi is always unsafe and taking some extra actions to secure your data is, of course, the most important thing to keep in mind.
Here are some more tips to help keep you safe:
- You should be wary of connecting to any public Wi-Fi network, especially one that doesn’t require a password.
- Don’t use any free, public computers. Sometimes hackers will plant infected machines in otherwise safe public Wi-Fi networks in an effort to steal your personal information.
- If at all possible, you should conduct financial and shopping-related transactions on the more private networks at your place of business or residence.
- If you must use a public network, only visit “HTTPS” sites to ensure your safety. When available, the HTTPS Everywhere add-on for Chrome will automatically load encrypted versions of the page. In the address bar of your browser, you should also see a green lock.
- Make sure that no one else on the network may access your personal files and devices by disabling “sharing” on your laptop. How to do this on your OS can be found by searching the web.
- Protect your computer with up-to-date, all-encompassing software. Make sure the firewall is turned on if your programme has one.