Does your computer have you as lost as Alice and as mad as the Hatter?
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are incredibly useful for anyone working in a public space, airport or any other place where you spend a significant amount of time. It’s also a great alternative to save data on your monthly smartphone subscription.
But, using free Wi-Fi hotspots means, you’re exposed to a certain level of potential risks and it’s therefore important to be aware of your security and privacy when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network.
Here’s how to browse safely in public:
1. Practice Safe Computing
Regardless what you do online or from where, it’s important to always be safe and smart while browsing the internet. Keep in mind your privacy and security, especially when you’re connected to a public network.
For example, avoid submitting sensitive data such as payment information or personal details on websites while being connected to a public network. Instead, read the news, watch some videos or enjoy some entertainment.
Obviously, if you’re secured by third-party software or you have sufficient security methods enabled, it’s far less risky to do your online banking on a public Wi-Fi connection.
Just remember to be safe when browsing on such a network. It’s not likely to fall victim to online identity theft or another type of scam, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
2. Switch Off Wi-Fi When You’re not Using it.
Switching off your Wi-Fi is one of the basic principles of safe computing. You don’t need to be connected to a network when you’re not using it at all.
That means that once you finished your work, browsing or any other activity, turn off your WiFi on your device – be this laptop or smartphone.
It’s a good security habit to develop because you won’t be vulnerable or exposed to a network you’re not even using.
3. Avoid “Free Airport Wi-Fi”
There’s a security difference between the Wi-Fi network at Starbucks and the Free Wi-Fi at the airport. For starters, the Wi-Fi at Starbucks is actually protected by a password and a security system. Users on a Free Airport Wi-Fi network are almost screaming “steal my information.”
Therefore, it’s better to opt for those with some level of protection and avoid the completely free and public networks at all times.
4. Always Update Your Antivirus
Whenever you’re working on a public network (especially if you do this frequently), it’s essential to always keep your antivirus software updated – preferably enable automatic updates. Public networks are infamously known for infecting devices with malicious software. An updated antivirus will have the latest malware and threats patched out.
You can also install free antimalware software such as Malwarebytes. My top-pick for free antivirus software would be Avast.
5. Privacy Protection Extensions
An extra layer of security on top of an antivirus or anti-malware is to install browser extensions that block any spammy or unsafe website or ads.
Simply put, such an extension will prematurely block ads that might cause harm “if” you click on it.
6. HTTPS vs Non-HTTPS
When you’re browsing using a public connection, give preference to HTTPS websites over HTTP at all times. Simply put, HTTPS websites offer a secure connection between your browser and the web server by encrypting all the data that is being transmitted.
That means that if you enter your credit card details and a hacker intercepts the transmitted data, it won’t be readable because all your personal information and credit card details are encrypted into ciphertext. So, it’s unreadable for the hacker and he can’t abuse it.
You can recognize an encrypted connection with the “S” in HTTPS and the green padlock icon in your browser.
7. VPN (Virtual Private Network)
One of the best ways to protect your data and online privacy while browsing in public is to install a good VPN – such as NordVPN.
If you are connected to an untrusted network, the perfect way to counter that is to connect to a network first, which encrypts all the data packets you’re sending out.
And that’s exactly what a VPN does.
With a VPN, all your data that is being transmitted to the service provider (in this case the public Wi-Fi network) is fully encrypted by the VPN software. So, snoops on the network who might be trying to obtain your data won’t be able to see anything in plaintext (unencrypted).
When you select a good VPN, make sure to look for a VPN provider that isn’t logging user sessions, IP addresses or leak other user information to third-parties.
8. MiFi Hotspot
MiFi (Mobile Wi-Fi) is a brand of wireless routers, which fundamentally works similar to a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you use your own MiFi device, you can completely ditch the public Wi-Fi networks and avoid any of the potential threats with that.
It’s especially useful for frequent travelers – be that by plane or public transport. It’s a perfect alternative to any public Wi-Fi connection, plus you won’t have to use your mobile data.
Bill here from PixelPrivacy.com. My blog is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. I pride myself in writing guides that I’m certain even my own mom could read! Be sure to head over to my blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!