Using public WiFi is like having a conversation in public. You never really know who's listening in.
Having someone eavesdrop on your conversation probably isn’t a big deal. Having someone gain access to all your computer files, however, is a real security issue.
If you’re on a public network, someone may be able to access your personal information, passwords, and more. We do our best to protect our work and home networks with WiFi protected setups, passwords, and even hiding our networks. But, many of us don’t worry about WiFi security on public networks in the same way.
While you can’t guarantee public WiFi security, there are a few ways you can help keep your information secure on public networks.
Know which networks to trust
The best way to stay safe when using free Internet is to know the network. You’re going to have to use your best judgement for this one, but usually the best networks are the ones that seem the most trustworthy.
Familiar networks are probably safer than ones you’ve never heard of or used. Some WiFi networks are much more secure than others. For example, you probably shouldn’t trust the network named “FREE WIFI HERE”. The WiFi at a well-known coffee shop, like Starbucks, however, is probably fairly secure.
Only use secure networks
Unsecured WiFi networks are ones that have no security protocols in place to stop people from accessing them. If you don’t need to enter a password to join a network, it probably isn’t very secure. Using unsecured networks can leave you vulnerable to “man in the middle” attacks. Of course no WiFi network is completely secure, but using networks with more security (like logins or passwords) are generally safer.
Don’t connect automatically
Many of us have our mobile devices configured to automatically connect to different WiFi networks. The problem is you have no way of controlling which wireless networks your device connects to. There are two options to mitigate this:
- Set your device to never automatically connect to WiFi networks
- Set your device up to ask you before it connects to unknown networks
Turn off file sharing
File sharing and AirDrop are incredibly convenient. You don’t want your computer to be automatically sharing things with strangers. Fortunately, you can avoid this by turning your file sharing off before you connect to a public network. Once your file sharing has been shut off, cyber criminals can’t just reach out and take your files.
Keep your computer’s antivirus updated
This may seem obvious, but it’s always best for your computer and antivirus software to be up to date. If you can take ten minutes and update your computer or install antivirus software, your system will be much more secure. Working on public networks without any protection increases your risk of cyber attack. If you plan on using public WiFi frequently, it’s best to have antivirus or anti-malware on your computer.
Use a VPN
The best way to ensure public WiFi safety is to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your device. VPN services encrypt your data and mask your IP address, keeping your information hidden. Installing a VPN hides your personal information from other people using the same network.
It always feels good to know you’re staying safe online. These easy tips will help you keep your data secure the next time you’re using a public WiFi network. Remember, if a network isn’t up to your security standards, don’t use it! You can always improve your online safety by investing in your own portable WiFi router or using your own hotspot.
Want to learn more about cyber security? Check out our recent post on the 5 Best Practices to Improve Cyber Security. Or get in touch with our team at Alt Tech to learn more about cyber security and get IT service you can count on!