Browsing the internet on public Wi-Fi networks may be convenient, but it can also be dangerous if you are not careful. Hackers can easily access your confidential information while you are online, and your sensitive data could end up being sold to third parties or used in phishing schemes against you.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to increase your safety while surfing on public Wi-Fi networks to protect yourself from harm.
Here are 11 ways to increase your safety on public Wi-Fi networks.
Change your device name
When it comes to Wi-Fi security, public Wi-Fi networks are a unique beast. They might not be as safe as you think. So, what is a person with an internet connection supposed to do? To increase your safety when using public Wi-Fi, take some time to change your device name.
Just change or set up a new SSID (the default name) for your network and keep encryption disabled.
Hackers use common names like attwifi or Linksys to identify vulnerable devices. By changing these default names, you can reduce the risk of being tracked by hackers while browsing online.
Use a secure Wi-Fi network
It can be tempting to instantly connect your phone or computer to an open Wi-Fi network when you are active. Unfortunately, most public Wi-Fi networks are full of security risks. If you do not want your personal information exposed, it is best not to use these networks at all—or only use them in a pinch.
The safest way? Use a virtual private network (VPN). With a VPN, all of your web traffic is encrypted before traveling across public internet servers, making it impossible for strangers (like hackers) to see what you are up to.
A VPN is a special program that helps create a secure and encrypted connection between your computer and a server controlled by your VPN service. With a VPN, all of your web traffic is sent through an encrypted tunnel before being decrypted at its final destination. It is impossible for someone snooping around public Wi-Fi—such as a hacker in another cafe—to see what you are up to.
Use Encrypted Websites
First of all, defense uses encrypted websites, which are available with most web browsers and apps. You can also use an extension like HTTPS Everywhere for Google Chrome, Brave, or Firefox; it ensures that you always connect to a secure site, even if one has not been designated by its owner.
Avoid signing into any accounts containing sensitive information over public Wi-Fi networks if you are not comfortable browsing in public on a VPN and do not have access to WPA2 security (also known as Wi-Fi Protected Access II).
Some malicious actors set up Wi-Fi networks that look like reputable businesses, like coffee shops and hotels. These fake networks are called evil twin hotspots, and they are used to trick people into providing their login credentials. In other cases, you can set up public Wi-Fi networks with key loggers or other spyware that monitors all network traffic for sensitive information.
Disconnect when you do not need internet access
While your computer is trying to establish a connection with a public Wi-Fi hotspot, it is broadcasting its name and your IP address, which can be a security threat. Even if you do not have sensitive information stored on your laptop, being watched by strangers is not fun.
Turn off your Wi-Fi when you do not need internet access to prevent unwanted spying. Alternatively, you can use a virtual private network (VPN), which masks your IP address and encrypts all of your communications over public networks.
Avoid Personal Data in Hotspots
Just because you are using a public Wi-Fi network does not mean that you should be careless about your privacy. Hackers can target hotspots to harvest passwords, financial data, or personal photos or messages. It is common for people who use a public Wi-Fi connection to be caught in a phishing fraud or have their personal information sold online for marketing purposes.
In addition, some hackers may want to steal bandwidth from your connection; when you share an internet connection with strangers in a coffee shop, there is always a chance that you will end up having more than just access problems. So, if Data security is important to you, think twice before accessing sensitive sites while connected to any hotspot.
Use private browsing/ incognito mode
If you are going to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, make sure your Internet browser is in private browsing or incognito mode. It will prevent anyone else from seeing any of your Internet activity while you are online, including what websites you have visited and what files you have downloaded.
Ensure that all files are completely gone when you finish using a public computer; otherwise, someone might be able to look at any stored data.
Connect only if necessary: Use public Wi-Fi networks as infrequently as possible and only for short periods. Do not synchronize or back up devices while connected, and do not use it for work purposes if at all possible.
Use secure Wi-Fi: If you need to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, ensure it is secured by the WPA2 encryption type. If you see an HTTP in front of HTTPS, stay away.
Avoid international hotspots: A bad guy could be anywhere in the world while using a public Wi-Fi network. Ensure that your device is encrypted so that all of your data is protected if it is intercepted or stolen.
Use two-factor authentication
You have heard about two-factor authentication and why it is so important if you have an online bank account or shop regularly. You can log in with your username and password, and then you get a code or text message that you enter along with your login info.
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of Wi-Fi Security beyond your password, making it harder for someone else to get into your account. It is also easy to set up: most services offer two-factor options that can be enabled in their account settings (Google Authenticator is a popular option).
Afterward, any time you try logging in from an unfamiliar computer, the service will send a code via text message or app notification; you will gain access once entered correctly.
Do not give out your personal information online
While Wi-Fi is convenient, it is also dangerous. When connecting to a public network, it is easy for hackers and evil people to capture your like personal information, social security numbers, or credit cards. You should never give out any of that information while using Wi-Fi.
Additionally, only connect your device to public networks you know and trust. For example, you should not log into your bank account when connected to a Starbucks unless you are sure of their security measures.
Never trust free public Wi-Fi if there is no other option available because these networks can be filled with criminals who want nothing more than access to your confidential information.
Check for a Secure Connection
It is an extremely effortless way for hackers to get access to your data by tricking you into connecting to a network that appears secure but is not. To keep your connection safe, ensure it uses HTTPS(SSL Certificate) and has a closed padlock icon before logging in.
Do not Log In: If you found an insecure connection, skip typing in any information that could use against you, such as passwords or credit card numbers. Those are best typed into secure networks.
Do not Download Unnecessary Files: Just because someone left some file behind does not mean you need it—or should download it. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol encrypts all communications between you and a website so no one can snoop on what you are doing while connected. If SSL is not available, do not log in at all.
Use an Ad Blocker: Most ad blockers also block malicious ads, which can contain viruses or other malware. Use an ad blocker to prevent advertisements from loading when connected to public Wi-Fi networks.
Update your passwords frequently
If you are using public Wi-Fi, try not to do anything that would require you to type your password, such as emailing sensitive documents or logging into your bank account. The bigger and more complicated your password is, the safer you will be.
Alternatively, do not use a public Wi-Fi network at all if possible. If a network demands a password but does not specify how long it should be or what characters it should contain, steer clear—it could be an attempt at the man in the middle (MITM) or no valid certificate attacks.
If you do not want to switch off Wi-Fi when using public networks, make sure that your passwords are complex and that you change them regularly. In addition, use Multi-Factor Authentication wherever possible and avoid accessing sensitive accounts over public Wi-Fi networks.
Set up parental controls if needed
Check your home router’s settings and ensure that a router password is set up to keep your information as safe as possible. Change that setting if you do not want others joining your Wi-Fi network (which can be more dangerous than using an open Wi-Fi connection).
It is usually pretty easy: Find Advanced Settings in your router’s web interface, look for an option like Wi-Fi Security, and turn it on. In Apple iPad or iPhone, tap Settings > Wi-Fi > [your network name] > Password > Join.
Many coffee shops, malls, and airports offer free Wi-Fi, but cybercriminals always look for such soft targets. They intercept such insecure data and can capture band details, and login credentials easily. It is advisable to avoid such insecure public wi-fi hotspots for daily internet activities. The above safety tips should be followed if you somehow use public Wi-Fi.
Recommended Reading :