Top 8 Ways to Stay Safe with Public Wi-Fi
Wi-fi might be the next best invention to the roller suitcase and umbrella. Founded in September 1990, the then-called ‘FlankSpeed’ connected us to the wealth of endless knowledge that’s called the internet. Thank you to the internet Gods that we no longer have to deal with slow, slow connections and that famous ‘connecting’ sound.
Instead, we live in the world of public, free-access wi-fi. It’s no longer a hassle to be connected. For the most part, it’s easy to find a stable connection, and most of our communication interacts via this technology. Wi-fi is the biggest transmitter of communications around the world, consisting of 71% of mobile connections using wireless internet. Wi-fi has created an abundance of new connections. In 2016, it was estimated that 23 billion devices were connected to the internet, averaging at 3 devices per person. This technology has opened doors for the development of new technology standards like the Internet of Things (IoT). We can see through these numbers the impact of the internet and how wi-fi has developed the modern day world.
Public wi-fi has been an enormous boom for working professionals. Now, free access points are available from pubs, restaurants, airports, hotels and even public parks. Where public wi-fi sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. A resource such as this has lead to new vulnerabilities and open holes in the network. Information passes in a new space, and being digitized, it can now be exploited by criminals outside your organization sitting in Bali on a laptop. All they need is an internet connection, access codes and a program. Where most public wi-fi connections offer no authentication, hackers have the opportunity to access unsecured devices on these networks. They’re formally a ‘man-in-the-middle’ accessing your information as it passes through the connection.
But don’t fear, because there are several precautions that you can take to help protect your data and assets when using public wi-fi.
Use a VPN
Creating a virtual private network (VPN) is one of the best ways to protect yourself when on public wi-fi. A VPN encrypts data as it passes between your device and the VPN server, meaning it makes it harder for the intruder to use your data. Hackers use public networks to source information on passwords, banking information and emails. They’re looking for an easy way, and by using a VPN, you’d be making the process one step harder for them.
Turn-off File Sharing
When you’re at home, it’s great to allow your printer, mobile devices and files to share across your network. Many times these devices aren’t password protected, so it’s an extra security step to turn-off file sharing options on your device when in public. This will keep the hacker from having access to more entry points than they should.
Only Use Public Wi-Fi When Needed
The easiest way to protect against public wi-fi is too simply not use it, or at least turn it off when not in use. Depending on what you’re working on, you will want to choose wisely what you work on when access through public wi-fi. For example, you should restrict banking access, or from entering credit card information when working in an unsecured network. Keep those activities for when you’re at home on a more secured network. Further if you’re working on a document in a cafe, turn off the wi-fi connection. Even if you’re not accessing the internet, hackers can still gain entrance if left on.
Look for ‘Simi-Open’ Networks
You’re weary about free public wi-fi, but you still need to make a connection to get work done. Instead of connecting to the airport free wi-fi that doesn’t require a password, look to connect in a local cafe. If the network that you’re connecting to requires a password, then this ‘semi-open’ network offers a safer option than the wide-open network.
Use a Pocket Wi-Fi or Tether your Mobile Phone
Skip the dangers of public wi-fi and opt for a more secured connection through a pocket wifi device, or by tethering your mobile phone. Over the last years, the prices for data plans and pocket wi-fi devices have been decreasing. It’s now more affordable, and it offers the safest connection when working in public places.
Have AntiVirus Software Up-to-Date
This should be happening already, and you should be updating your software not just because you’re connecting to public wi-fi. Whatever software you choose, make sure to keep it updated, running and in use.
Enable Two-Step Authentication
Setting up a two-step authentication on your Google email account and Facebook page is simple and easy security hygiene. This is basic, but adds a solid layer of protection to your data and passwords. If a hacker does gain access to your password, they’ll still need the second authentication to gain access.
Forget the Network
Once you’ve completed your browsing, go to your network settings and choose to ‘forget’ the network connection. When you do this, your device won’t automatically connect to the wi-fi network again when it’s in close range. Remember these connections can still run in the background, even when you’re unaware.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t lose out to a faulty and malicious public wi-fi connection. Use these eight points when you have to connect. If all else fails, keep access to banking websites and vulnerable information when you’re on your own private home network.