How to Protect Your Data When Browsing Via Public Wi-Fi
Connecting to the internet through home Wi-Fi is easy and secure.
10:05 16 September 2020
It is relatively uncongested, depending on the number of users connected to the Wi-Fi router and their activities online.
The increased need for internet connectivity has led to the ever-rising number of public Wi-Fi hotspots across organizations and cities worldwide. This allows internet users to remain connected to the internet even when they are away from home.
Whether you want to purchase an item online or you wish to keep track of your social media accounts and keep the followers you buy from Dr Tik tok smiling, public Wi-Fi will help you stay connected to the internet on the go.
However, connecting to public Wi-Fi is not as straightforward or safe as the home network. You need to be extremely cautious with the information you share and the sites you access using public Wi-Fi. The following are some of the tips of staying safe when connected to public Wi-Fi:
● Verify the Network
When connecting to the public network, always check and confirm you are connecting to a known public Wi-Fi hotspot. For instance, ensure the hotspot belongs to the organization in which you're situated. You can ask an employee of the organization if you are unsure.
Hackers and malicious internet users are known to create fake public Wi-Fi hotspots used to gather data from unsuspecting users. It is best preferred to connect to a secure public Wi-Fi that requires the users to log in.
When connected to the public Wi-Fi, always configure and turn off sharing mode to restrict connected users from accessing your device's materials. Sharing preferences usually are not essential in public networks and always ensure this feature is turned off.
● Always Surf on Secured Sites
When surfing the internet using public Wi-Fi, always ensure you access secured sites built with HTTPS. Using secure connections ensures the data you send and receive from the website is encrypted.
As such, interceptors and eavesdroppers will not have access to this data, but rather an encoded version. If a malicious actor on the internet gains access to the information you send or receive from the internet, they will not read it in plain text.
To verify that your connection is secure, the address bar should have a lock icon, or the URL begins with HTTPS like that of Etsy geeks.
● Do Not Give Away Personally Identifiable Information
Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for personally identifiable information in the internet-based platforms. You should be extremely cautious about the information you share over public networks.
If you are asked to provide way too personal information, including email address and phone number, decline the request. However, if this information is critically important for you to access the public network, provide an alternative phone number or email address rather than your primary contacts.
While stores, coffee shops, and restaurants are increasingly using free Wi-Fi to gain customer information in exchange, this can be a red flag if the personal information requested is critical and personally identifiable. Always gauge and determine if this trade-off is worth it.
Do not complete critical transactions like the ones requiring sensitive information via public Wi-Fi. In this case, do not buy services or products online via public Wi-Fi, as you will need to enter the retailer credentials and your banking information. This data can be accessed and misused by cyber criminals connected to public Wi-Fi.
● Use a Virtual Private Network
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) extend the private network into a public network to enhance safe browsing and user privacy. VPN will go a long way to keep you and your data secure when browsing over a public Wi-Fi.
While VPN is not entirely cybercrime-proof, it will help you stay safe, whether browsing using a home network or free internet. A VPN will help you connect to the internet privately when on public Wi-Fi.
In addition to privacy, a VPN enhances your anonymity online. Also, VPN providers have designed encryption services as an add-on to the VPN services to ensure enhanced security for the data received and sent via the internet.
● Closely Monitor Your Connections
Always ensure your devices, including tablets, mobile phones, and laptops, have the automatic connectivity feature turned off. While this feature is handy in facilitating your connection from one hotspot to another, it can increase your vulnerability to malicious attacks when connected to a public Wi-Fi.
This feature will seamlessly connect your device to the available free Wi-Fi hotspots. Therefore, it is best when turned off to prevent connecting you to potentially harmful networks and those you wouldn't ordinarily use.
When you travel to unfamiliar locations, turn off auto connectivity or Wi-Fi to ensure you do not connect to unwanted networks. Besides, when connected to public Wi-Fi, please keep track of your Bluetooth connectivity to ensure it is not connected to unwanted devices.
● Use a Firewall or an Antivirus
Keeping your firewall and antivirus turned on as you surf using public Wi-Fi helps restrict your device's external access. A combination of firewall and antivirus enhances the resilience of your system against attack by cybercriminals.
While the firewall acts as a barrier between your device and malware, the antivirus will continually scan files obtained from the internet to ensure theyare free from viruses and malware. These two will also provide a comprehensive report on the malicious activities in the system.
Despite the annoying popups that frequently notify you of possible malware and virus threats, configure the antivirus and firewall to protect you when browsing the internet via public Wi-Fi.
● Use Two-Factor Authentication
When accessing online accounts that require login credentials, always use two-factor authentication, if the option is available. Besides, you can use One-Time Passwords to enhance the security of your online account.
Strict user authentication using OTP and two-factor authentication techniques makes it hard for hackers to gain unauthorized access to your online accounts. These techniques ensure hackers will not access your account even when they have accessed your passwords and login credentials.
While connecting to public Wi-Fi helps you stay connected to the internet, whether you are at home, at the workplace, or traveling, it can put you at substantial risk. The potential damages resulting from the security compromises in public Wi-Fi can be minimized by following the simple tips covered in this article.
Whenever possible, connect to a few public hotspots as possible, and when you are traveling to a new city, do not connect to public hotspots in every other coffee shop or store. Accessing the internet through free public Wi-Fi usually is a trade-off between security and open internet.
Make your surfing worthwhile by ensuring your online accounts' security and personally identifiable information using tips like enabling firewalls and antivirus. Before you connect to any free Wi-Fi hotspot in a public space, ensure you understand this network's risks and check if you have taken necessary measures to minimize the risk.