Public Wi-Fi networks are easy to come by these days. Whether you’re working from a library, coffee shop, or airport, all it takes are a few clicks to get connected.
Though convenient, these Wi-Fi networks aren’t always the most secure. Even if you have to enter a password to access the network, the fact that it’s still public means you’re at risk of being hacked.
Cybercriminals can intercept communications between users and their corresponding public Wi-Fi router, making it easy for them to view and steal data. Hackers can also send files infected with malware to your computer should you have file-sharing enabled while using public Wi-Fi.
On top of this, cybercriminals can also create fake Wi-Fi hotspots, gaining access to all of your personal information should you access the network.
So, what can you do? If it’s essential for you to use public Wi-Fi, make sure you follow these steps first.
Verify the network
Before logging into any network, remember that hackers can disguise themselves as a hotspot. Ask any employees of the spot you’re trying to access what their network actually is.
Verify the name and never log into a network simply because it doesn’t require a password. You should always know what Wi-Fi network you’re accessing.
Many computers will ask if you’d like to “trust” a network when you try to join it for the first time. Before clicking yes, make sure you’re certain the network is secure.
When you’re connected to a public network, make sure to turn off your file-sharing capabilities. This way, cybercriminals won’t be able to send malware directly to your devices.
File sharing is relatively simple to turn off, regardless of the type of device you’re using. Simply open your system preferences or control panel to get started.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is an excellent way for you to keep your information secure when using a public network.
VPNs encrypt any of your data that passes through the public Wi-Fi network. This way, you can access the internet without hackers being able to track your whereabouts. You won’t have to worry about your data being intercepted, as it’s hidden by the VPN.
Take the time to research which VPN is best for your needs. Send us a message if you have any questions, as not all VPNs do the same job. It may be worth the money to invest in a strong VPN to guarantee your privacy.
Only visit encrypted sites
If you’re using Google Chrome, this browser will actually let you know when the site you’re on uses an unencrypted HTTP connection rather than encrypted HTTPS encryption. HTTP connections will be labeled as “Not Secure.”
You’ll want to aim to only visit HTTPS sites, as they’ll help protect your data from cyber threats. When you see HTTPS, this means that the webserver is encrypted and any data submitted to said website will be safe from hackers.
Many browsers such as Google Chrome also include a padlock icon before each web address to let you know when a site uses encryption.
When you’re sharing a public network and using HTTP, it’s easier for other users to track your movements online.
Enable your firewall
Though your firewall won’t completely protect you from hackers, it’s an essential step to take when you’re opening up your devices to the public. The firewall will act as a barrier and protect you against a variety of malware threats.
If your firewall blocks anything, there’s a good chance it was a hacker trying to get access to your device. Those pop-ups might be irritating, but they’re simply letting you know that your data is being safeguarded from any cyber threats.
If you’re not already, you should be using antivirus software on your devices. Antivirus will help detect any malware or cyber security threats that might be trying to get into your system as you’re using public Wi-Fi.
Make sure you’re using the latest version of your antivirus as well, so it doesn’t fall behind in terms of security. You’ll get an alert whenever your device detects a threat or any suspicious activity.
Keep your devices updated
Along with your antivirus, you’ll also want to make sure your apps and additional softwares are always updated. Updates often fill in the gaps when it comes to security, so take a look at where your devices need to be brought up to speed.
Not patching up these holes leaves your devices open to hackers. Take the time to update your devices and reap the benefits of increased cyber security measures.
The above tips are incredibly important, but there are a few other things you’ll want to do when using a public Wi-Fi network.
First, remember to turn off automatic connection and select “forget network” after you use the public Wi-Fi. Don’t make any financial transactions or log into important accounts when using a public network.
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) as well, so you have an added layer of security when it comes to accessing your accounts.
Public Wi-Fi is never the safest option, so if all else fails, think about using your mobile device as a hotspot instead. Just remember to keep it private and not let others join!
Have any questions when it comes to using public networks? Send us a message and we’ll make sure you know what you’re up against the next time you’re using Wi-Fi on the go.