Connecting to Wi-Fi in the comfort of your home is not the same as using a public Wi-Fi network.
Public Wi-Fi often lacks encryption, putting your personal information, such as passwords, credit card details, and private messages, at risk.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. There are ways to stay safe while browsing at a coffee shop or airport.
In this article, we’re sharing seven tricks you can implement to use public Wi-Fi safely.
- Choose Trusted Networks
To minimize the chances of getting hacked, try using a network you trust, such as one provided by a hotel, airport, or coffee shop. These networks usually have added security measures, such as firewalls or network monitoring, to prevent cybercrime.
Always be cautious of connecting to networks with generic or misspelled names, as cybercriminals could potentially set these up. It’s crucial to verify the network’s legitimacy before connecting. When in doubt, ask the establishment’s staff for official network information.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
When you install a VPN, you make it extremely difficult for a hacker to intercept your data, regardless of what network you’re connected to. That’s because a VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a remote server, effectively creating a secure tunnel for your data.
A VPN also masks your IP address, adding an extra layer of anonymity. This makes it even harder for cybercriminals to track your online activities or determine your physical location.
A masked IP address has the added benefit of accessing information or content available in another country. For example, a user with a VPN server Canada could access information in that country, even if they are located in the US.
- Enable HTTPS and look for misspellings
To ensure a secure browsing experience, users should always check for “https://” in the website’s URL. This small but vital detail signifies that the connection is secure.
Additionally, modern browsers often display a padlock icon in the address bar to further indicate that the connection is encrypted. These visual cues offer immediate assurance of the safety of your data during online transactions.
You should also keep an eye out for any misspellings or unusual characters in a website’s URL. This could indicate that you’re on a phishing website.
- Turn Off File Sharing
When you’re connected to public Wi-Fi, always disable file sharing. File sharing can inadvertently expose your sensitive data to other users on the network, posing a potential security risk.
By default, many operating systems are configured to allow file sharing, which means that unless you turn it off, your device may be inadvertently sharing files and folders with anyone on the same network.
To turn off file-sharing, go to your device’s settings and locate the file-sharing or network-sharing options. From there, you can disable this feature to ensure that your files remain private and inaccessible to others on the network.
Alongside disabling file sharing, consider adjusting your device’s settings to limit access to specific folders or files. This additional step ensures that even if file sharing is inadvertently enabled, sensitive information remains inaccessible.
- Forget the Network
Once you connect to a network, your computer automatically re establish a connection when you return to that area. This could put you in danger, as you may be connected to public Wi-Fi without even realizing it.
To prevent this from happening, make sure you disconnect from a network and forget it when you’re done. To do this, go to your device’s settings and locate the list of saved Wi-Fi networks. Select the network in question and choose the “Forget” or “Remove” option.
You should also periodically check your list of saved Wi-Fi networks to ensure there are no suspicious networks your laptop might instinctively connect to. This way, you can promptly identify and remove any suspicious or unfamiliar networks, further fortifying your protection against potential security breaches.
- Avoid Sharing Personal Data
Exercise caution and refrain from entering personal information while connected to public Wi-Fi. Stick to simple online activities like reading the news, checking the weather, or general searches.
Reserve sensitive data entry, such as Social Security numbers, financial particulars, or confidential work files, for when you’re on a secure, private network at home. This precaution helps safeguard your sensitive information from potential risks on public networks.
Despite the dangers of public Wi-Fi, 25% of people still access their bank accounts when using public Wi-Fi. If you have to access bank information, take extra precautions. Try to use apps or websites known for their safety, and double-check the website’s authenticity.
- Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Enabling two-factor authentication significantly bolsters the security of your accounts, and more and more websites are using this security measure. Google reports that 70% of people use this method to add an extra security measure.
This added layer of protection ensures that even if someone manages to obtain your password, they still won’t be able to breach your account. This extra step is a crucial defense against potential security breaches. Two-factor authentication may involve:
- A one-time code sent to your phone number;
- Biometric features, like a fingerprint or facial recognition;
- Using a dedicated authentication app.
This simple yet effective trick bolsters your accounts and provides peace of mind.
To sum up, using public Wi-Fi is convenient but not always safe. By recognizing the vulnerabilities of unprotected networks, we can take the necessary precautions and secure our sensitive data.