Last Updated: April 05, 2020.
Using public Wi-Fi is a simple way to stay connected to the Internet without using your mobile provider’s data connection. Beware, though: there are lots of risks when connecting to public Wi-Fi, including having your personal information exposed to prying eyes.
Multiple users connect to public networks at the same time, and if your device isn’t protected your information will be accessible to everyone connected to that network.
Make sure you’re always safe on public Wi-Fi: these tips will help you have safer experiences using public connections.
USE a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows anonymity while connected to public Wi-Fi. The first thing to know about VPNs is that a paid service is better than a free one. Some might ask why ExpressVPN is so expensive, but despite the cost, ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPNs on the market due to its extensive features.
Here are some important VPN features you can only get on a paid VPN like ExpressVPN:
No Logging: The best VPNs don’t keep track of where you go. This is a vital feature and prevents any ISP from checking up on your browsing history.
Tunnelling: Connecting to a VPN means your IP address connects to a VPN’s server, and that server provides you a dummy IP address for accessing the internet. Anyone online attempting to access your system through the IP address will get a dead end.
Encryption: Your data has value to hackers and ISPs. Encryption takes that data and turns it into unintelligible strings of numbers that are either 128 digits or 256. This means that all your sensitive information is now impossible to decrypt.
Massive Server Network: The best-paid VPNs have a large number of servers. This increases bandwidth, allowing you to access the internet services you want without being jammed up with a bunch of other users doing the same on the same server.
Getting a VPN is imperative to connecting to a public Wi-Fi safely.
Regardless of whether it is a trusted network like those at a major retailer or a smaller network at someone’s home, a VPN turns your device into a hard target. If hackers notice your IP address is protected, they’ll move on some other target after their initial rudimentary efforts bear no fruit.
Keep Trusted Networks to a Minimum
When connecting to a public network, your computer or smartphone automatically saves the network’s information. As you accumulate more trusted places – for example, Wi-Fi connections at Starbucks, Walmart, Target, your local grocery store, etc. – you’ll end up connecting to these networks automatically.
This may look convenient, but it can be a serious security risk. Some public networks work hard to provide security to users but at the end of the day, if you can connect without a password, there’s danger.
A VPN lessens risks, but not everyone has a VPN, therefore you must be diligent. A good rule is not to connect to a network that doesn’t prompt you to enter a password.
Don’t Share Sensitive Information on Public Networks
Many stores have apps making shopping in the store easier, but this increases risk exposure. An example of risk is filling out forms with your personal information on them. Anyone on the network can see what you are doing.
Another risk involves payment. Even if using a service like PayPal, it is best not to pay for anything on a public network. Just like entering personal information is a bad idea, entering your card or banking information means taking an unnecessary danger.
Passwords are another example of sensitive information. Having a password manager on your devices is a simple way to avoid your passwords being exposed on a public Wi-Fi.
Keeping your personal and financial information away from public Wi-Fi networks is essential for security. Always think twice before providing any information on public Wi-Fi networks.
Only Use HTTPS
HTTPS means the site you’re visiting is encrypted. These secure sites are the only ones you should visit when connected to a public Wi-Fi. To identify a site as HTTPS, look in the address bar.
If you’re using Google Chrome, you’ll know you’re on an HTTPS site when there is a padlock icon in your address bar. Chrome and many other browsers stop unencrypted HTTP sites from loading onto your device. You’ll receive a message from the browser warning you the site is insecure.
Most reputable sites use HTTPS, so unless the site is completely trusted, avoid any HTTP sites.
Keep Your AirDrop and File Sharing Minimal at Most
It may make life easy to use AirDrop and File Share, but you’re exposing yourself to a world of trouble when you use these features on public Wi-Fi. The best practice is just not to use them. Here’s how to disconnect them with a Mac and a PC: Mac
- Go to System Preferences
- Select “Sharing”
- Unselect all options
- Go to Finder and then AirDrop
- Check “Allow Me to Be Discovered by No One”
- Go to Network and Sharing Center
- Check Change Advanced Sharing Settings
- Turn off File and Printer Sharing
Once you have turned off these options you’ve taken a big step towards decreasing your exposure on public Wi-Fi. If you need to share or AirDrop something, you can do so on your home network or attach a file in an e-mail message, providing the file is not too large in size for your email service.
Public Wi-Fi makes life convenient by offering a fast connection and allowing you to conserve your data. There are several ways you could be compromised through.
Taking proactive steps towards keeping your devices secure on public Wi-Fi networks grants you peace of mind.