What Is Public WiFi?
There are two types of public Wi-Fi networks; secured and unsecured. Each network type is different and can help answer the question; is public WiFi safe?
Unsecured networks are wireless networks that you can connect to without any kind of password or authorization. Also, they won’t have security built into the network to prevent hackers. Unsecured networks lack security measures that keep you safe.
A secured network requires the user to agree to legal terms, use a password, or create an account to sign in. Secured networks with these login steps usually have some added security features. These features are put in place by the owner of the network (the airport, restaurant, hotel etc.) to offer secure browsing on public WiFi, to their guests. Even with these added security features you still need to be cautious when using public WiFi.
WiFi Security Risks: The Don’ts of Public WiFi
Do NOT Access Bank Information
All public Wi-Fi networks can be hacked. These hacks could be simple spyware, which would allow hackers to see what you’re doing on your computer, or something more malicious like ransomware.
Do NOT Access Sensitive/ Personal Information
Even with secured public Wi-Fi networks your sensitive information, like work emails or information about your children, can be accessed by hackers. Be extremely cautious of what you access or view while using free public Wi-Fi.
Do NOT Shop Online
Entering in credit card information or your address can leave that information vulnerable to hackers. Even if you have your card information stored and it auto inserts into the site with all of the safe-looking ****’s, that information can still be accessed by skilled hackers.
Do NOT Leave Device Out Of Your Sight
Don’t leave your laptop, tablet, or phone out in the open. Passersby can steal your device or quickly look through it to obtain personal information without your knowledge.
Assume You’re Not Safe
Assuming that you’re safe on public wifi is the biggest mistake you can make. Always act under the assumption that using public wifi is risky and your information could become compromised.
How To Stay Safe On Public WiFi
Is Public WiFi Safe?
Short answer, no. But luckily there are wireless connection best practices you can follow in order to avoid any major wifi security risks. The following steps should be followed to stay safe when using public WiFi.
Step 1: Utilize Secure Browsing on Public WiFi Networks
Even if it requires a few extra steps, the added safety of a secure network is definitely worth it.
Step 2: Turn Off Automatic Connectivity
Most phones, tablets, and laptops will have an automatic connect option. These will automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks, and some of those will be unsecured Wi-Fi networks, as you’re going about your business. That will instantly expose you and your information without you being aware.
Step 3: Turn Off Bluetooth
Bluetooth is the ability that devices have to communicate with each other. Leaving your Bluetooth feature always on can leave you vulnerable to hackers. Hackers can lock into open Bluetooth signals and can communicate with your device to gain access to your information. It’s always a good idea to get into the habit of turning it off when you are out of the house and office.
Step: Use a VPN
A VPN (virtual public network) is a tool to help protect you when you need to use public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs can encrypt all of the data that you send and receive. This will help to secure your data and protect you from possible cyber-attacks.
Step 5: Be Smart
Be smart and cautious. People are constantly attempting to access your data. Free public WiFi is one way that makes it way too easy for them. Before you connect to free public WiFi, ask yourself if you really need the internet, and if you do, be very cautious of what information you access. Always think that others could be watching what you do.