Public Wi-Fi networks are becoming more and more popular. You can find Wi-Fi in malls, supermarkets, busses, trains, libraries and pretty much everywhere you go once your out of your house. Even though public Wi-Fi keeps you online, there are certain security risks that you may subject yourself to. Don't worry! We will give you some tips on how to keep your device safe when using public Wi-Fi.
10 ways to stay safe when using public Wi-Fi
1. Observe good internet hygiene
Beyond the tools and software that you would need to ensure your internet security, there are certain habits that you also need to develop so as not to expose your privacy and data needlessly when going online. If you can help it, avoid working with sensitive information – at least online, especially when you’re using unsecured public Wi-Fi networks (i.e. coffee shops, malls, airports etc.). Public Wi-Fis should be good enough for checking the news or visiting your favorite blogs, but not for doing online banking transactions – just to prove a point. You gotta play it smart too!
2. Choose the right networks (Stay away from the bad ones)
“Not all Wi-Fi networks are created equally.” One good example is the “Free Airport Wi-Fi” network that is sitting idly in the background within the range of the airport – you know that this type of connection is much risky than those available in coffee shops, stores, and retail shops inside the airport. Choose the latter. By knowing which ones to pick when several networks are within your range, you’ll enjoy better security and faster network performance.
You can also use tools such as WiFox and its mobile applications to help you identify networks available in airports and select which ones to access and when. And in case you encounter public networks that say “Free Wi-Fi Access Here” or “Absolutely Free W-iFi Available!” it’s best for you to steer clear away from them.
3. Pick semi-open Wi-Fi networks, where applicable
Anything that can be freely accessed without any semblance of security such as a passcode or an SSID is undoubtedly the least secure connection out there. If you have a choice, opt for networks offered in airport lounges or coffee shops that put their passwords on receipts or have hidden SSIDs. There's nothing free, everything has a price (remember that).
4. Do not use file sharing and AirDrop features
Whether you’re using a Windows PC or Mac, your computer has certain file-sharing options, based on intuitive usage patterns that you would be working within a trusted network, or with other trusted computers. For safe measure, turn off these file-sharing options, keep internet-reliant app usage to a minimum, and make sure that your computer’s internet firewall is enabled. For Mac users, be sure to set your device’s AirDrop feature to contacts-only, if you still haven’t.
5. Turn off the Wi-Fi when not in use
We were taught that when something is not in use, we should just turn it off. If it’s an appliance or a piece of equipment, unplug the cord. The same rule applies to your devices, especially those, that when left unchecked, would remain connected to the internet. This is a good habit that you want to develop especially when connecting to (an untrusted) public network if you decide to use it at all. Not only will it keep your device more secure, but you can also save up on your battery life.
6. Be sure to keep your security software up-to-date
Should you need to connect to an unsecured public network such as those in airports or public establishments, it would be practical and wise to keep a set of updated antimalware program together with a complimentary antivirus tool (Just in case).
7. Install and enable privacy-protecting browser extensions
Having an antimalware and antivirus security package is not enough to protect your browsing privacy online. Therefore, in order to screen out floating malware which users pick up from browsing websites, a good way to enhance your privacy and browsing security is by installing privacy protection tools that have the same function which specifically work on your web browser.
8. Enable HTTPS everywhere all the time
Following point #7, one good browser extension that is highly recommended to enhance your internet security is HTTPS Everywhere because it automatically connects you to the HTTPS version of over 1,000 websites, instead of the less secure HTTP version. The most recent version update of the extension not only offers 1,000+ new rules, but it also incorporates a series of automated tests to screen for basic errors, simpler disabling feature (for instances when HTTPS Everywhere needs to break the functionality of a site being viewed), as well as the security feature to disable HTTP altogether.
9. Use a VPN
In principle, the best type of protection you can apply on your device when connecting to an untrusted network is direct, encrypted access to a secure network connection. And this is where the use of VPNs come in. By using this type of service, you are assured that all the data shared between you and your internet service provider, boxing out whoever it is who might be snooping within the same network you’re on.
10. Invest in your own (portable) Wi-Fi.
Sometimes, the best protection you can have from something is to entirely stay away from it. Of course, doing so won’t make public Wi-Fis any safer, but if you can afford to invest in your own Wi-Fi, then you won’t have to put yourself at risk anymore by accessing public networks.
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