With everyone offering free public Wi-Fi from malls to dental offices, it’s easy to log on and start using it without giving it much thought. However, using public Wi-Fi does pose some threats if you’re not being careful and are unaware of the potential dangers. You can encounter different set-ups from retail stores to coffee shops and a portable Internet solution at an event to the airport. Here’s our peek into the seedier side of free Wi-Fi to help keep you safe.
The Types of Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is available on both secured and unsecured networks. As you can imagine, one works automatically when you are within range without the need to log on, while the secured version requires a login. Sometimes, a shop or business will require you to make a purchase to access their secure network.
Public Wi-Fi Dos & Don’ts
This is a quick and easy overview of what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to using public Wi-Fi:
- Do feel safer when you connect to a secure public network. Some companies offer an unsecure network that requires you to register so they can collect your email address, so make sure you understand if you’re logging on to a secure network or are just registering.
- Don’t use unsecured or secured public networks for tasks that require confidentiality, such as personal banking, online purchases or accessing sensitive personal data.
- Do turn the automatic connectivity off on your device as it could connect you to suspicious networks up to no good when you are out and about.
- Don’t leave devices unattended even for a minute when you are in a public place as it just takes a quick peek for someone to get valuable info from your phone or laptop, or to just grab it and disappear into the crowd.
- Do monitor your Bluetooth connectivity when you aren’t home as it can pose a risk for hackers to access your device.
Top Security Tips for Public Wi-Fi Use
To keep you even safer, here’s our top security tips to help you avoid hacking when out in public:
- Turn Off Sharing: Disable sharing for things such as music libraries when you are using public Wi-Fi as this can actually allow others sharing the network to hack your device.
- Use a VPN: Using a virtual private network (VPN) gives you the safety of your private network even when using public Wi-Fi to keep your personal info safe. This is a must if you’re a free Wi-Fi groupie and connect to every network wherever you go.
- Avoid Auto Connecting: As already mentioned you should turn off your automatic connectivity when you go out as you won’t know if something is secure and safe with this setting. Instead, just choose where you want to use public Wi-Fi to avoid connecting to malicious networks. There’s a good chance this is not on anyway, as most smartphones disable it by default. It’s best to check just to be safe.
- HTTPS over HTTP: HTTPS websites encrypts the transfer data to keep you protected whereas HTTP websites don’t. There is a browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere that will make sure that just about any site you visit transfers data safely.
- Two-Factor Authentication: We know, we know, it seems like such a pain, but it really is the safest thing to use. This can include use of a password and a thumbprint or face verification. This just means that if someone gets your password, they’ll need your face if they want to log on to any of your accounts!
- Network Name Double Take: If you’ve ever been in your favourite coffee shop and tried to use their Wi-Fi login, you might have noticed two similar network names. This is a red flag that something is wrong. Before logging on, ask the servers which one is correct as it is not uncommon for malicious networks to be set up using a similar name to get you to log on to their fake network to steal your info. The clever little devils!
- Failsafe Passwords: It’s so easy and lazy to use the same password for everything you do, but nothing is easier for a hacker than to figure it out fast and start their wicked practices. Instead, be sure you have the best possible random passwords so it’s harder to hack into your devices and accounts.
- Firewall Up: Use your built-in firewall to monitor connections to increase your protection.
- Use Anti-Virus Software: Kind of self-explanatory, but this will provide alerts if your device has been compromised.
- Ad Blocker: Most people already use an ad blocker, but if you don’t, a blocker can not only help prevent those ever so annoying ads but also same-network attacks, so you can browse safely.
BYO – Wi-Fi
Using data is an option that deserves its own section. This can be a scary idea depending on what your cellular service offers. Cellular data provides connection to the internet using your phone, as long as you are in the range of a cell tower. The problem with this set-up is that you will have a monthly allotment of data with your cellular plan and when you go over, it costs you. Ideally, you want to limit data usage, and this is even more important if you share data with your partner or kids. However, it’s an option if you really are feeling vulnerable and desperately need to check Facebook!
There are no hard and fast rules that tell you when and when not to use data versus a public Wi-Fi network. However, there are some basics you can consider so you know when you should use one over the other. Here are some dos and don’ts for Wi-Fi versus Data:
Do use Wi-Fi when:
- It’s a secure network
- You’re streaming video
- You’re travelling internationally
- Speed is needed
- The Wi-Fi signal is strong
- You’re limited by a costly data plan and don’t want to go over your limit
Do use cellular data when:
- Only a public, non-secure Wi-Fi network is available
- The public Wi-Fi network is too slow
- You have plenty of data left for the month
- You have a weak Wi-Fi connection
- You aren’t travelling outside the country
Although you can run into security issues and malicious activity under many different scenarios, using these tips will help provide the best possible protection from those ne’er do wells who are out to hack your devices.
If you’d like more information about our portable Internet solution please call 800-741-2924 contact us here.