“Internet on the go” is considered as the anthem of today. Its availability in all places and at all times is a desirable must. Thus the increasing popularity of public Wi-Fi networks. What are these? These are open internet “points” providing free bandwidth to all. Ever scrolled through your social media feed while sitting in a coffee shop? Or checked up a fact on Google while reading a book in the library? Perhaps you booked a hotel room in advance while waiting at the airport. If so, chances are that you’ve used public Wi-Fi. But with this overwhelming convenience, there are a few concerns popping up as well, most of them security related.
It is estimated that one in every four individuals finds their laptops or smartphones hacked, especially those connected over public networks. These networks give hackers and other cybercriminals the opportunity to tether themselves to the openly synced devices and hack the private information that’s on there. One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, accounts get messed up, credit cards get maneuvered, and identities get stolen.
But there’s a way to go around it, and that involves following the foolproof and easy tips outlined below.
This is the age of smartphones. They automatize your life, sensing and executing functions based on the machine learning principle. Take, for instance, the cookies they store, which register your preferences and then tailor the search feed accordingly. In the same way, smartphones might be tuned to connect automatically to any Wi-Fi signals that they might catch in the air. This auto-connect option goes against you when it comes to public Wi-Fi, because it exposes you to vulnerable networks without your permission. So it’s better to disable this auto-connect option by going into the settings of your phone.
Turn Off Sharing Option
When you’re working within the vicinity of your home or workplace, you’re comfortable with sharing files with other users. Whether it is a Metallica song or a research document, your mobile is open to sharing because it trusts the stable network connection of your private circle that you acquired thanks to the wonderful Spectrum internet. But the case is different when it comes to the public Wi-Fi networks. They’re open-access, so you don’t really know who’s waiting to scour through your files on the other end. Thus, it’s better if you turn off the file-sharing option and maintain a solid layer of secrecy.
A firewall is like a semi-permeable membrane that keeps a strong check on what goes in and out of the system. If you’re going to connect to an open public network, then it’s absolutely paramount that the firewall on your devices is turned on. With most smartphones, it comes built-in, but might not be automatically activated. All you’ll need to do is go into the settings of your device, enter your administrator password, and then turn it on.
Update Antivirus Protection
Nothing’s worse than a virus. It can turn an operating system upside down and weaken it enough for cybercriminals to access it easily and get their hands on confidential information. And what beats a virus is obviously an antivirus. So update your operating device with the latest antivirus protection, like Avira or Norton. With this guard in place, you can connect to an open public network without any worry. It’s an added layer of security, after all.
Increase Privacy with Browser Extensions
A browser is a launching platform which projects you into the vast internet plane and allows you to maintain an online presence smoothly. It’s sort of like a gateway, through which all sorts of relevant information passes. Of course, there exists a possibility of something else slipping through this gateway, something which could crash your entire web activity and corrupt your device. Think malware or spyware. Public Wi-Fi networks are open-access and can be the carriers of these cyber-corruptions. To protect yourself from such intrusions, get the latest browser extensions, like Disconnect, to ensure your web privacy.
Rely on HTTPS Only
HTTPS is a security certificate which is issued to sites that are dedicated to improving the user experience by making safety a priority. It acts like an encryption cushion, hiding the interaction between a particular user and a website, thereby dissuading cybercriminals. If a website is secured by HTTPS, it means that no one can pry into the personal user data. So whenever you’re surfing the web over public Wi-Fi, make sure to stick to those websites only which are secured with an HTTPS certificate.
Subscribe to VPN
Even if no one else knows what you’re doing on the web, the ISP most definitely does. And this might work against you, especially when you use an open-access public Wi-Fi network. You don’t want anyone snooping around your personal files. As such, what you need is a virtual private network to hide your internet activity from the eyes of the ISP and some other sinister parties. A VPN is an encryption tunnel which isolates your surfing experience, thereby protecting it. You can get it from a third-party VPN provider or even cook one up at home, depending on how you want to go about it.
Avoid Data-Sensitive Personalized Browsing
It’s a universally acknowledged fact that you shouldn’t trust a public Wi-Fi network blindly because you don’t really know its source or its participants. It’s better to avoid getting too personal with your activity while synced with such an open-access network. You may freely browse through blog posts or scroll through your newsfeed. But try not to make any financial transactions online or check your sensitive business emails, because that’s precisely what the virtual predators are waiting for, and public networks give them the perfect opportunity to hack into your devices and play around with your data.
Free Wi-Fi. Do you see how attractive this combo of words sounds? Doesn’t it make you want to jump right into it? That’s precisely where the major appeal of the public networks lies. And in their eagerness to enjoy free internet on the go, people overlook certain crucial security factors. They forget to look before they leap, and this leap costs them their privacy. Hackers set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots, similar to what you publically connect to, something like “coffee~hub2” for an actual “CoffeeHub” connection. When people connect to these fake hubs, their information is leaked and made readily available to the hackers. So be careful before choosing a public Wi-Fi network to connect to.
Reinforce Logins with Two-Factor Authentication
It’s always wise to have a backup plan. Hackers might be able to predict your passwords and even try to enter your protected domains, but they won’t be successful if a two-factor authentication is in place. It works this way: you can login to an online account only if you remember your password AND if you receive a code that’s sent directly to your phone automatically. Only by entering both can you fully access your accounts. It acts as a double layer of protection, and works especially well on open-access public networks.
Thus, by incorporating the aforementioned tips into your life, you can stay safe while browsing on a public Wi-Fi network.