The Dangers of Public Wi-Fi: 10 Tips to Stay Protected

July 23rd, 2018 by admin

When you’re out and about, be it in your local coffee shop or the airport, a “Free Wifi” sign can be a welcome sight to see. But before you connect to that tempting public network, there are some important things to keep in mind about the potential risks involved. Although convenient, public wifi can be extremely dangerous. When you are using a public network, anyone close by can easily gain access to your information, even information you thought to have been encrypted.   So what’s an on-the-go internet user to do? If you really need to connect to that McDonald’s wifi, here are some things you can do to minimize the risk:  

1. Don’t touch your personal information

First and foremost, don’t touch any personal information that you wouldn't want in the hands of hackers. This includes bank information, social security numbers, and passwords. It’s safest to stick to simple web browsing, and avoid logging into any accounts.  

2. Use SSL connections

Always check for the “https” before a site’s url to indicate a secure, encrypted connection. Most websites that require credentials have an “Always Use HTTPS” option to add an automatic layer of protection to sites you frequent.  

3. Turn off file sharing

File sharing is simple to turn off from your control panel. Or, let Windows do the work for you by selecting the “public” option when you connect to a network for the first time.  

4. Be suspicious

Not all Wi-Fi networks are created equal. Cybercriminals set up phony hotspots to gain access to your personal information. They trick you by using connection names similar to the venue offering free Wi-Fi. It’s a good practice to verify with an employee the connection’s name or IP address to make sure the Wi-Fi you are joining is legitimate.  

5. Use Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus solutions

Be sure to have reliable anti-malware and anti-virus software on your phone and computer. Keep these solutions updated as often as possible so that you are protected from the latest threats.  

6. Take advantage of privacy protecting browser extensions

Browser extensions can block ads and protect you from session hijacking and clickjacking. Some top rated extensions include AdBlock Plus, Disconnect, and Privacy Badger.  

7. Two-factor Authentication

To add another level of protection, enable two-factor authentication on especially sensitive accounts such as your email or bank account. This way, even if your password is intercepted, your account cannot be accessed without an additional step, such as authentication from a mobile device.  

8. Forget the network

Make sure that after you’re done using the network, you log off of any accounts or services, then “forget the network.” This prevents your device from automatically connecting to the network again if you’re in range. This can easily be done in Network and Sharing Center settings. Click on the network name and “Wireless properties”, then be sure “Connect automatically when this network is in range” is unchecked.  

9. Use a VPN

Although the above tips will increase your safety and security, whenever possible it’s best to use a VPN (virtual private network). That way, your data will be effectively encrypted and much harder to intercept.  

10. Invest in an unlimited data plan

Instead of connecting your phone to public wifi, use cellular data to keep your information more secure. Use your phone as a personal hotspot for browsing on other devices like tablets and laptops.   It’s important to be aware of the security threats that come along with joining a public wifi network. When using such a network is necessary, stick to these guidelines and you’ll be much safer. Connect wisely!     -Hannah Webb

Posted in: Protection, Security, Tech Tips