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Using Public WiFi Safely

Tue 28 Sep 2021

Walk into any hotel, coffee shop or airport and it’s likely you can connect to public Wi-Fi. The spread of this easily accessible Wi-Fi has enabled people on the move to do everything from check their emails to watch videos online. But users should log into these services with caution as malicious actors regularly attempt to steal sensitive data through unsecured connections.

Two forms of public Wi-Fi are mainly used – secured and unsecured. While a secured network required some type of registration process or password, unsecured networks simply require the user to be within range and they can access the Internet. Keeping in mind a number of tips before risking your personal data the next time you connect with a public Wi-Fi hotspot can be crucial.

Double-check the name of the Wi-Fi network you’re connecting to is the right one. A practice called Wi-Phishing is used to trick people into logging onto the wrong network to lure unsuspecting users onto a hackers network. For example, cybercriminals could create a network called Cool Beans Coffe to mirror the real Cool Beans Coffee account.

To keep potential risks down to a minimum, don’t enter sensitive personal data on an unsecured network, especially information related to personal bank accounts. Even secured networks should be viewed with caution when shopping online, as logon credentials can be exposed.

Consider investing in a virtual private network (VPN) solution to encrypt data being sent and received by your devices. Once data has been encrypted, it makes it much more difficult for others to see what you’re doing on the network. There are hundreds of different VPNs, so make sure any you choose are high quality and safeguard your data.

Newer smartphones, tablets and laptops often come with connectivity settings that automatically connect to nearby networks for convenience. It can be a good idea to turn off this auto-connect setting as unsafe networks could be joined without your knowledge. Monitoring Bluetooth connections is also important, as it’s possible for hackers to connect with an open Bluetooth signal to access your device.

When connected to a public Wi-Fi, check that the website uses the HTTPS protocol to support SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), as this confirms the connection is secure. Keeping your devices up-to-date with the most recent security updates is vital, too, with these updates often fixing major security issues that public Wi-Fi hackers could exploit. Using anti-virus software and firewall can provide a line of defence against malware or other malicious viruses that may enter your devices.

Using these tips can help reduce the risks associated with public Wi-Fi but there is always the possibility that cybercriminals can succeed and access sensitive data on these services. The latest mobile phones can be easily turned into a Wi-Fi hotspot with a few clicks. Depending on the location, the reliability may not be perfect but they are typically much more secure than public Wi-Fi.


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