Free Wi-Fi is very hard to resist. It’s like coming across a free gallon of gas. I am guilty of scrimping on using my own mobile data as much as I can. After all, my Frontier packages cost me money, whereas the Wi-Fi at the coffee shop down the street is free. So deciding whether to use my data or free Wi-Fi is a no brainer right? Not exactly. Sure public Wi-Fi is convenient and helps you connect to the internet when nothing else is available.
However, there is a sinister side to free public Wi-Fi. We will show you why you should use it as sparingly as possible. We will also look at 7 tips that can help keep you safe when you do have to use public Wi-Fi.
7 Tips to Safely Use Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi sure seems like a windfall, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Understanding the risks that come with using public Wi-Fi can help you from falling victim to them. The most basic safety tip is to NOT use public Wi-Fi if you can avoid it. A flaw in WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption means that anybody on the same Wi-Fi network can access your information. This includes information that you might think secure and encrypted.
Wi-Fi standards are not quite up to the mark when it comes to security, which means you should avoid them. But in case you have no other option, these tips can help you safely navigate the treacherous public Wi-Fi terrain:
- Prudent, Hygienic Practices
- Opt for Semi-Open Networks
- Disable File-Sharing
- Updated System Security Software
- Disable Wi-Fi when Not in Use
- Only Access HTTPS Sites
- Use a VPN
Read on for a closer look at each of these tips and how they can help keep you safe.
Prudent, Hygienic Practices
So the first and most obvious tip is to have a hygienic approach to the internet. When you’re using a public network, avoid working with sensitive data. If you want to check the news, watch a video or read a blog, go right ahead. But avoid doing your online banking on an unsecured network. The tips that follow help ensure your protection, but you need to act prudently yourself.
Opt for Semi-Open Networks
You don’t always have a choice when it comes to public Wi-Fi hotspots. But wherever possible, you should opt for a semi-open network instead of one that is completely open. These networks put their passwords on receipts instead of displaying them in the open. They also tend to hide their SSID and so forth. This does not mean they are completely safe. But they’re still better than the ones that are completely open.
You can’t really control the public network you connect to. But you can still control your computer. Most computers have file-sharing options for networks you trust. It’s a good idea to disable them when you’re using a public network. You should also enable your computer’s firewalls and only use essential internet-based applications. Most computers let you assign a trusted status to networks you connect to. So the computer will revert to your settings on when you’re home or connected to a network you have designated as trusted.
Updated System Security Software
You just can’t stress this enough. Updated antivirus and antimalware software is a must when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network. There are a number of excellent utilities out there like Avira, Sophos, and others. Whichever utility you choose, you need to keep it running and up to date. Public Wi-Fi networks are a big culprit behind malvertising, and you don’t want your computer infected.
Disable Wi-Fi when Not in Use
Don’t stay connected to a public Wi-Fi network longer than you absolutely need to. When you’re not using it, be sure to turn off Wi-Fi on your device. This is an excellent security precaution against unsecured networks. It also goes easy on the juice and makes your batteries last longer.
Use a VPN
Always use a VPN when using an unsecured network. VPNs offer an encrypted connection to a trusted network, so they come in handy security wise. VPNs encrypt your data between the service provider and you. They prevent anyone on the same network from snooping in or accessing that data. VPNs tend to slow down your connection speed, but it’s a small price to pay for added security. Similarly, kids are very careless when browsing online. Therefore, to Keep kids safe online internet should be VPN protected.
There are a number of other steps you can take to ensure you don’t encounter the pitfalls of public Wi-Fi. Accessing HTTPS-only sites is a good practice to adopt. HTTPS has a Secure Socket Layer or SSL certificate that prevents third parties from accessing sensitive information. Google has even made HTTPS a ranking factor to encourage a more secure web.
You can also use some privacy-protection extensions for your internet browser. These keep you anonymous on the network and safe from same network attacks. Bring your own internet wherever possible. Sure it may not have the Frontier internet speed you’re used to. But at least it’s safer.
Ultimately, if you can avoid connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, you should avoid it. If there is absolutely no other option, then use the tips listed above to reduce the risks of infection or attack.