Free public WiFi can be a real lifesaver. Whether you’re in the airport, on a business trip, at a conference, or any other place with public WiFi networks, it can help you stay connected. However, a free connection can come with some serious public WiFi security risks. If you are looking for tips on how to stay safe on public wifi, we have provided a list of dos and don’ts of free Wi-Fi compiled from the experiences of trained IT experts.
First, it’s important to understand that there are two types of public Wi-Fi networks; secured and unsecured. Each network type is different and can help answer the question; is public WiFi safe?
Unsecured networks are networks that you can connect to without any kind of password or authorization. Also, they won’t have protections built into the network to prevent hackers. Unsecured networks lack cybersecurity measures that keep your information safe. Therefore, you need to be very cautious about what information you are accessing when using an unsecured WiFi network. Many experts recommend never connecting to unsecured networks because you are far too vulnerable. Your TikToks and reply all emails can wait a little while longer.
A secured network requires the user to agree to legal terms, use a password, or create an account to sign in. Secured networks with these login steps also have some added security features. These features are put in place by the owner of the network (the airport, restaurant, hotel, etc.) to offer secure browsing on public WiFi, to their guests. However, even with these added security features you still need to be cautious when using public WiFi, even if they are secured. Just because they are secured doesn’t mean you’re not vulnerable. The level of security that you’ll find on WiFi networks will vary greatly. Thus, some will still be very insecure.
WiFi Security Risks: The Don’ts of Public Wi-Fi
- Do NOT Access Bank Information
All public Wi-Fi networks can be hacked. These hacks could be simple spyware, which would allow hackers to see what you’re doing on your computer, or something more malicious like ransomware. Accessing your bank information can give them an easy entry into all of your finances. With a breach like this, the user would often be completely unaware that it’s taking place.
- Do NOT Access Sensitive/Personal Information
Even with secured public Wi-Fi networks your sensitive information, like work emails or information about your children, can be accessed by hackers. Be very cautious of what you access or view while using free public Wi-Fi.
- Do NOT Shop Online
Entering in credit card information or your address can leave that information vulnerable to hackers. Even when you have your card information stored on your phone and it auto inserts into the site with all of the safe looking ****s, skilled hackers can still access that information.
- Do NOT Leave Device In The Open
Don’t leave your laptop, tablet, or phone out in the open. Passersby can steal your device or quickly look through it to obtain personal information without your knowledge.
- Never Assume You’re Safe
Assuming that you’re safe on these networks is the biggest mistake you can make. Always act under the assumption that using public wifi is risky and your information could become compromised. This mindset will help you establish good habits of internet safety and keep you safe from cyber attacks.
How To Stay Safe On Public Wi-Fi: Tips To Follow
- Step 1: Utilize Secure Browsing on Public WiFi Networks
Even if it requires a few extra steps, the added safety of a secure network is definitely worth it.
- Step 2: Turn Off Automatic Connectivity
Most phones, tablets, and laptops will have an automatic connect option. These will automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks, and some of those will be unsecured Wi-Fi networks, as you’re going about your business. That will instantly expose you and your information without you being aware. Especially make sure it’s off when you’re traveling or going to unfamiliar places.
- Step 3: Turn Off Bluetooth
Bluetooth is the ability that devices have to communicate with each other. Leaving your Bluetooth feature always on can leave you vulnerable to hackers. Hackers can lock into open Bluetooth signals and can communicate with your device to gain access to your information. Therefore, it’s helpful to get into the habit of turning it off when you are out of the house and office.
- Step 4: Use a VPN
A VPN (virtual public network) is a tool to help protect you when you need to use public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs can encrypt all of the data that you send and receive. This will help to secure your data and protect you from possible cyber-attacks. Many companies whose employees need to work remotely will invest in VPN programs to help secure the company’s information. So, if you work remotely and your company doesn’t offer VPN services, you should ask to change that.
- Step 5: Be Smart
Just be smart and cautious. People are constantly attempting to access your data. Free public WiFi is one way that makes it way too easy for them. So, before you connect to free public WiFi ask yourself if you really need the internet, and if you do, be very cautious of what information you access. Also, be aware that others may be watching what you do.
Types of Attacks
A type of attack that disables or damages computers and computer systems. There are many different forms of malware. Malware is one of the most common kinds of cyber viruses today. This kind of virus aims to shut down and disable your system. From there, hackers can take several courses of action that could benefit them
A form of malware attack that blocks access to computer systems until a sum of money is paid. Ransomware is an especially scary form of cyberattack because your system is being kidnapped and held hostage. With ransomware, they promise the hope of having your information restored for a hefty fee, but often even after paying the fee your data is never restored.
Another form of malware virus that secretly gathers information from your device without your knowledge and relays that back to the hacker. This is one form of malware that is often deployed via free public Wi-Fi networks because the hacker is able to gain information without the user’s knowledge.