Public Wi-Fi networks can represent a security risk for every user; fortunately, there are many tips to keep your private information safe online. In a recent survey, 70% of tablet users and 53% of smartphone users stated that they use public Wi-Fi hotspots regularly. However, because data sent through public Wi-Fi can be easily intercepted, many mobile devices and laptop users are risking the security of their personal and financial information, and identity. Furthermore, if the device they’re using is not protected by an anti-malware product the risks are even greater.
With shopping centres, airports and almost every public place offering customers access to Wi-Fi networks, it has become easier for users to check emails, catch up on social media etc. when they are in public places. However, this can also mean that it has become easier for cybercriminals to intercept sensitive data and information on public Wi-Fi networks; in this way, cybercriminals can access users’ banking details, passwords and other personal information (see our article on why cybersecurity is important for businesses). Some tips to stay safe online include:
- Be wary of Wi-Fi links. Don’t assume that every Wi-Fi link is legitimate, but judge them all with caution; as a matter of fact, a Wi-Fi link could have been set up by a cybercriminal trying to steal valuable information from users. So, question every public connection and do not connect to an unrecognised wireless access point.
- Confirm the validity of a wireless connection. Some non-legitimate Wi-Fi links will have connection names that are similar to authentic ones in order to trick users and steal valuable information. Try to find out more about the validity of the Wi-Fi from the employees at the location that is providing the public Wi-Fi connection.
- Use a VPN (virtual private network). By using a VPN when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network you will use a private gateway that encrypts all your data that passes through the network. This can help prevent cybercriminals on the network to access your data. Connecting to a VPN is usually straightforward, and once you have downloaded the client for your provider of choice, it will take you step-by-step through the process, whether you’re on a mobile or desktop. If you move around a lot and connect to different networks on a regular basis, you should invest in a good VPN.
- Avoid certain websites. When connecting to a public Wi-Fi network avoid accessing websites where there is a chance of cybercriminals capturing your personal information, passwords and banking details, such as social networks.
- Consider using mobile phones. If you require to access those websites that store or require you to input sensitive information, such as online shopping or online banking sites, it might be better to access them from your mobile phone network instead of the public Wi-Fi connection.
- Protect your device against cyber-attacks. While most of the pages on the internet begin with “http://”, a secure page that uses encryption will begin with “https://”. That extra “s” makes all the difference when you’re accessing with a user ID and password. Don’t trust unsecured websites that ask for personal information. You can install apps such as ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ that will make your browsing more secure, encrypting communication with many major websites.
Other tips to keep your connection safe on a public Wi-Fi include to always turn off the automatic connection setting and use a 2-factor authentication so that if hackers obtain your username and password, they still won’t be able to access your accounts and/or personal information. Furthermore, make sure you always forget the network after connecting to a public Wi-Fi connection and don’t run financial transactions over a public network.
Bluetooth can also pose a huge risk to your cybersecurity when using a public Wi-Fi; as a matter of fact, it can allow various devices to communicate with each other, and a hacker can look for open Bluetooth signals to gain access to your devices. Try to keep the Bluetooth on your phone and other devices switched off when you are in public places. You can also use an alternative browser from the one you use on a daily basis if that one has your browsing history and passwords saved; or alternatively use an incognito browsing window for basic browsing on sites that don’t require passwords.
Another tip could be to protect your most important apps by logging out of sites when you finish using them so that if someone accesses your network they will not be able to log into those apps and potentially steal personal data and information. If you are looking for a reliable and secure connection take a look at our connectivity solutions below.