Free Wi-Fi networks are everywhere. Cities even offer such services in parks or popular outdoor hangouts. Sometimes, it is hard to say no to free Wi-Fi, even if you have enough cellular data. However, connecting to such networks is risky, and your data and activities might end up monitored.
Since public Wi-Fi is typically open to anyone, it’s an easy target for hackers. Most public Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to hacking, even if you are connecting from familiar places, like your favorite coffee shop. Go
To help you stay safe, we share some tips that are simply common sense or simple setups you can make before connecting to a free hotspot.
Ask when connecting
You’ll need to change the settings on your device, making sure that before it connects to any network, it needs your permission. In short, you should prevent your smartphone or laptop from connecting to networks automatically. Experts have also labeled this setting as one of the most dangerous.
Moreover, it’s unwise to assume that if you have used a network with a certain name somewhere, it’ll be safe to use it somewhere else if it has the same name. With the right tools, a cybercriminal could always spoof any Wi-Fi network’s broadcast name—the SSID. With the device asking before connecting, you get a chance to decide whether the network is safe to connect to or not.
Avoid sharing sensitive information
You might feel an urge to do so, but we strongly suggest that you refrain from sharing personal information online. When using public Wi-Fi, avoid carrying out banking transactions that need you to share your sensitive information. If it’s necessary to share sensitive information, it’s wise to do so after you’ve reached your office or home.
Choose the correct network
It is possible that perpetrators will craft lookalike networks, imitating reliable ones. Thus, you should always ensure that you connect to a secure option.
These attacks intend to trick you and make you log into the wrong network. You might not bother to take the time to check, and you connect to the most robust signal around. If you are better safe than sorry, always check the network you connect to and see if it’s legitimate.
Look for a secure connection
To secure your connection, most websites are seen to use HTTPS protocol that supports SSL or Secure Sockets Layer. Most browsers also warn you if it’s missing on any site. Even if HTTPS isn’t listed in the site’s URL, you can still tell if the site uses HTTPS. You’ll know that a website is secure when, for example, you see a lock icon and the word “secure” right at the address bar’s start in Chrome on desktops.
There are also extensions like the HTTPS Everywhere extension offered by Electronic Frontier Foundation for popular browsers—Chrome, Opera, or Firefox which force your login to connect to only the secure option if it’s available.
Secure yourself with a VPN
If you use free Wi-Fi regularly, you cannot go wrong with a Virtual Private Network. A VPN sets up an encrypted tunnel, rerouting all your data through it. Since most free Wi-Fi hotspots lack encryption, a VPN performs it instead. Thus, your data travels safely, without being read by anyone. Another bonus is that a VPN improves your online anonymity by hiding your IP address. That way, your real location cannot be extracted from your IP address.
Cybercrime is rising day by day, and public Wi-Fi is the favorite hunting ground for hackers. If you haven’t been too serious about your security on public Wi-Fi, it’s high time you pull up your socks and give them the attention it deserves. Yes, connecting to public Wi-Fi is often a compulsion, especially when you are a professional who needs to travel often. That should make you even more cautious when you log into public Wi-Fi.