Safety Tips for Public Wi-Fi Usage
We are all grateful for the ability to use public Wi-Fi. You can work at the airport while waiting for your flight to take off, browse your social media profiles while sipping a cup of cappuccino at the local coffee shop, or simply save data by logging into one of them. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are growing and it is now easier than ever to connect to them.
However, keep in mind that your device’s default settings might no longer be enough to keep your information private and secure. Below are a few tips that will help you protect your information from unwanted intruders.
Disable automatic connection to Wi-Fi Most Wi-Fi capable devices have a setting that regulates whether or not the device will automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi hotspot. While some might look at this as a good thing because it will save them data, the truth is that it puts your privacy at risk. If this setting is enabled, your device doesn’t need your permission to connect to a public Wi-Fi and might potentially connect to a network specifically set up to steal your information. Disable this setting and you’re one step closer to being protected against unwanted intruders.
Watch where you’re going If you decide to trust a public network that is readily accessible for anyone, it is best practice to avoid working with sensitive data, such as your bank accounts. Even using your credit card to make an online purchase while being on a public Wi-Fi can be dangerous as identity thieves have become quite creative when it comes to stealing your identity.
Keep your guard up This is one of the most important steps to do when considering connecting to a public Wi-Fi. Make sure your device’s antivirus software is up to date and running properly – it can safe your life, literally. Nothing else needs to be said other than that.
Use HTTPS HTTPS stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure”. It is a lot more secure than regular HTTP and here are the differences between the two: (Source: How-To Geek)
When you connect to a website with regular HTTP, your browser looks up the IP address that corresponds to the website, connects to that IP address, and assumes it’s connected to the correct web server. Data is sent over the connection in clear text. An eavesdropper can see the web pages you’re visiting and the data you’re transferring back and forth. there’s no way to verify you’re connected to the correct website. Maybe you think you accessed your bank’s website, but you’re on a compromised network that’s redirecting you to an impostor website. Passwords and credit card numbers should never be sent over an HTTP connection, or an eavesdropper could easily steal them. These problems occur because HTTP connections are not encrypted.
When you connect to an HTTPS-secured server—secure sites like your bank’s will automatically redirect you to HTTPS—your web browser checks the website’s security certificate and verifies it was issued by a legitimate certificate authority. This helps you ensure that, if you see “https://bank.com” in your web browser’s address bar, you’re actually connected to your bank’s real website. The company that issued the security certificate vouches for them. When you send sensitive information over an HTTPS connection, no one can eavesdrop on it in transit. HTTPS is what makes secure online banking and shopping possible.
Do you have the correct Network? If you are unsure whether the Wi-Fi listed is the correct one or not, just ask. For example, if you are at the public library but there are two networks listed that both contain the word “library” – ask the employees. One of those networks could be a fake one designed to steal your information as soon as you log in!
Disable File Sharing Your device most likely has certain file sharing options enabled which assume that the network you are on is a trusted one. By turning off your file sharing and by reducing the usage of internet-connected applications to a minimum you are at least a little better protected against those people with bad intentions who are connected to the same network as you.
Use a VPN connection
In a nutshell, a VPN or Virtual Private Network is defined as a local area network connection that is using a secure tunnel, usually through the Internet. This means that a VPN extends a private network (your company network) across a public network (in our case, the Internet). This enables users to send and receive sensitive data as if their computers were directly connected to the private network, even though they aren’t physically in the same network. A good analogy would be to imagine your data as a person traveling in a car on a public highway. Without a VPN, other drivers could look in through the windows and see everything inside the car. A VPN is like an armored truck: it is still traveling on the public highway (the internet); however, other drivers cannot see or access what’s inside.
Use your own Wi-Fi As mentioned in on of our previous Tech Tips, there are options for you to bring your own Wi-Fi to wherever you go. You could simply use a mobile broadband modem. This is a device for connecting your computer to a cellular data network, and it plugs right into the USB port of your device.