Tips for Securely Using Public WiFi

Are you ready to hang out at Starbucks again, or hop a plane to take a vacation? Both Starbucks and the airport have free public WiFi, but anyone can connect; and how do you know that the network you’re connecting to is the one being provided by Starbucks or the airport and not some scammer looking to collect your data? Here are some tips to be more secure on public WiFi.

  1. Make sure you choose the correct network
    Have you ever searched for wireless networks and come across multiple networks that look very similar but are not exactly the same. This is a man-in-the-middle attack called “WiPhishing”. Connecting to a network controlled by a malicious actor exposes all the data travelling back and forth from your device to that actor.

  2. Don’t assume a WiFi hotspot is secure
    Most hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send over the internet, which means that other devices connected to the same network could see any information from your device. Avoid accessing any sensitive information while on public WiFi.

  3. Turn off automatic connections
    Most devices by default will attempt to connect to any available wireless network. You can usually turn this off in the wireless network settings of the device, or at least have it prompt you before it connects.

  4. Use a VPN
    If you have to connect to public WiFi and access or input sensitive data, make sure you use a VPN. A VPN will ensure that all data traveling to and from your device is encrypted and cannot be viewed by anyone else on the same network. Most consumer antivirus software providers, like Norton, Bitdefender, McAfee, etc., have an add-on VPN service that you can purchase and use. Stay away from “free” VPN services.

  5. Use your own hotspot
    Avoid public WiFi altogether by using your own hotspot. With the popularity of unlimited data plans through mobile carriers, it might be better to use the mobile hotspot feature of your phone. If you don’t have an unlimited plan, or prefer not to use your phone, most carriers offer small portable hotspot devices.

Here are two good articles with additional tips:

PCMag – https://bit.ly/3y5HKdQ

FTC – https://bit.ly/3y2bN66

Enjoy that coffee, or vacation!

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