Public Wi-Fi provides computer users with free access to the internet. People use public Wi-Fi at places such airports, hotels, coffee shops, and other locations when they are away from home or their office and cannot access their own private or work safe Wi-Fi networks. While it is indeed handy to use our computers while traveling, accessing public Wi-Fi can be risky as that action might expose your private information to cybercriminals. Information at risk can include bank account and credit information, personal passwords, your private messages and more. Thus, it is important to think twice about using public Wi-Fi. Should you choose to go ahead, be sure that you set up some safeguards.
Norton, an industry-leading antivirus and security software company offering protection for your computer, tablet, and your mobile device, explains that hackers can position themselves between you and your Wi-Fi’s connection point. When you cruise the internet, these hackers can intercept whatever you are viewing, typing, or downloading. That is how they can steal your passwords or online bank information, and in some cases send malware to your devices while you are online. Thus, public Wi-Fi is much less safe than your Wi-Fi connections at home and those at work which are protected by your employer.
So, what’s a person to do? It’s most important to be mindful. Whenever possible avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi. Never visit important financial websites such as checking your bank account on public Wi-Fi. Wait until you are using a secure network to do so. In the case that you need to use public Wi-Fi for general things such as checking weather or maps, make sure your security is boosted. One recommendation is to use a virtual private network (VPN) that can help protect your data by sending it through a tunnel and encrypting it and by keeping your keystrokes private. Another important suggestion is to select the most secure settings on your mobile devices. Head to “settings” on your mobile device and turnoff features that automatically connect you to Wi-Fi networks. A few more common-sense ideas: Only visit websites with “HTTPS” not simply “HTTP.” The “S” indicates that the data on the website is encrypted. Additionally, always use different and strong passwords for your accounts. And always be sure to log out of your accounts when not in use. Be sure to set up two-factor authentication (2FA) which requires users to provide two different authentication factors to verify themselves. This provides extra protection should your password ever be guessed, hacked, or phished.
While public Wi-Fi is easily accessible, it is often not secure and sets users up for risks. Thus, it’s important to safeguard your account and personal information from hackers. First, whenever possible, avoid using public Wi-Fi. Second, consider adding security features such as those offered by Norton, McAfee, and other companies to enhance your online safety. Third and lastly, follow the other sensible measures above, and more, to help keep your accounts secure and increase online safety.