8 Measures To Take When Using Public Wi-Fi
In today’s technological world, it’s seen as almost Edwardian if you don’t offer some sort of free Wi-Fi to your guests. Our reliance on the internet has led to cafes, restaurants, bars, shopping centres, even trains and buses offering public Wi-Fi connections to users.
While this is great news if you’re short on data and need to get online, most people don’t realise that these public internet connections come with a whole host of security issues. Even those that require you to enter a password. If not used carefully and cautiously, you could find yourself becoming the victim of a hacking or cybercrime.
But don’t panic, this doesn’t mean you should no longer log in at your local pub or make the most of the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks. You just need to make sure you’re taking all the right steps when doing so. In this guide, we’re going to outline eight measures you should take when using public Wi-Fi to keep your data safe and reduce the risk of a security breach.
- Use a Virtual Private Network
One of the best ways to keep your information safe when using public WI-Fi is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). There are a number of options out there, but this tool will encrypt your data traffic and stops hackers from being able to intercept your connection and see the information you’re sharing. There are free options out there if you’re on a budget, but just remember that not all VPNs are created equally. If you plan to use public Wi-Fi regularly and/or you’re sharing important, sensitive information, it might be better to invest in a more sophisticated version for your device.
- Avoid file-sharing as much as possible
If possible, it’s best to avoid file dropping or sharing (via tools like Dropbox) as much as you can when using public Wi-Fi. This can be difficult if you’re using it for work, but in these cases, you should take extra precautions to protect yourself. But as a general rule, it’s best to avoid sharing files as you never know who could be lurking in cyberspace trying to gain access to your information over weak or vulnerable public connections.
- Turn off automatic connection
Some public Wi-Fi will enable automatic connection as soon as you are in or near enough to the building. But as helpful as this may seem, it’s a good idea to turn this option off. Otherwise, you could find yourself browsing the internet as usual, unaware that you’ve been connected to the public Wi-FI. This could make you less cautious and increase your risk of a data breach.
- Don’t give away your information
Don’t make it easy for cybercriminals by readily offering up your information. Decide, is it really vital that you check your bank or make that online purchase right now. If you can do it later from the safety of your own Wi-Fi connection, then it’s a good idea to do so. Entering sensitive information such as your bank details or your address can be risky. Hackers could be using a Man in the Middle (MIIM) attack to intercept your connection and access your data, so the less you freely offer up, the safer your information will be.
- Avoid signing up for new sites
On a similar note, it’s best to avoid signing up to any new sites or platforms whilst connected to a public Wi-Fi. Nowadays, when creating online accounts, at the very least you’ll be asked to enter your email address and create a password. Armed with this information cybercriminals could then try to hack into a number of your other accounts. Especially if you have the tendency to use the same password for multiple platforms like many of use do (despite this being a big cybersecurity no-no). Instead, wait to sign up for these accounts when you’re no longer on a public connection, this will reduce the risk of someone getting hold of your information and being able to exploit it in the future.
- Be careful when emailing
Emailing, for many of us it’s how we communicate with customers, clients, colleagues, retailers and even sometimes friends and family. It’s become such a huge part of our lives and we rely on email for so many things. We also tend to share a lot of information this way. That’s why email accounts are a big target for cybercriminals.
As such, you should be cautious when replying to emails via a public connection. Hackers have found increasingly sophisticated ways to intercept these connections and therefore might be able to see what you’re sharing via your email account. Again, tricky if you need to use email for work purposes and this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, but try not to include sensitive files or large attachments and certainly don’t include important information in the body of the email until you’re back on your own secured connection.
- Take the appropriate security measures
If you’re using your laptop or device to do work or even just browse the internet for pleasure, it’s important that you have the right security measures in place if you’re going to connect it to public Wi-Fi. It’s also important that you make sure these security softwares and systems are as up to date as possible.
At the very least you need antivirus and anti-malware software installed on your device. It also pays to enable your firewall for extra protection. Again, these measures can bolster your cybersecurity, but we still recommend trying to avoid sharing files and giving away information as much as possible. Even with these measures in place.
- Stick with trusted sites
Last but not least, you should always try to stick to trusted websites. Most browsers come with security features that help you to do this. For example, Google Chrome will flag if a site is unsecured and a pop up will alert you to the risks. This gives you the opportunity to decide if you want to continue and visit the site anyway. As a general rule, it’s always best to stick to HTTP sites where you can.