6 Important Tips to Stay Safe on a Public Wi-Fi
There is an increasing number of free public Wi-Fi hotspots, but not every hotspot can protect a private home network. Default settings and firewalls on your notebook, tablet or smartphone may not be enough to keep you safe from prying eyes on the go.
If you want to keep your information and files secure, read these important tips when you are away from home to protect yourself.
Always Confirm the Network Name:
Hackers sometimes set up a fake Wi-Fi network to attract unwitting Wi-Fi users in public. The public Wi-Fi network of Starbucks may not be called “Free Starbucks Wi-Fi.” Connecting to a fake network could place your device in the hands of a malicious ne’er-do-well.
If you don’t know if you connect to the official network, ask. If you’re in a café or coffee shop, employees know the official wifi network name and help connect you. If nobody asks, you may want to move to another location where you can be sure the Wi-Fi network is not fake.
Avoid Automatically Connecting to Wi-Fi Hotspots:
Your smartphone or tablet can be set to connect to any available Wi-Fi hotspot automatically, which can seriously jeopardize your privacy. This will not only allow your device to connect to public networks without your express permission, but you can also connect to malicious networks specifically set up to steal your information automatically.
This option is disabled by default on most modern smartphones, but this is not always the case, and you should always double-check it. First, open your phone’s settings app’s Wi-Fi section. If you don’t see an option to deactivate auto connection, you’re safe. If not, turn off this setting.
Turn Off Sharing:
You can share your music library, printers or files, or even allow remote access to your home’s privacy from other computers on your Wi-Fi network. If you do not deactivate these settings before connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, anyone else nearby can hack into your PC.
If you use a Windows PC, open the advanced sharing settings in the Network and Internet settings section of the homegroup in the control panel. From here, you can switch file and printer sharing and network discovery, making your computer visible to anyone connected to the same network. Go to System Preferences for Mac, then share, and make sure that none of the options are checked.
Always Use HTTPS:
Regular websites transfer content in plain text to anyone who has hacked into your network connection. Many websites use HTTPS to encrypt transmission data, but you should not rely on the website or website service to protect you. This encrypted connection can be created everywhere with the HTTPS browser extension. Almost all website connections are secured with HTTPS with this plugin enabled to ensure that any data transmission is safe from prying eyes.
Run Anti-Virus Software:
Always running up-to-date anti-virus software can help to provide the first alert when your system is connected to an unsecured network. If known viruses are loaded on your PC or if there is suspicious behavior, such as changes to registry files, an alert will be displayed. While running anti-virus software may not catch any unauthorized activity, protecting against most attacks is a great way.
Protect Your Passwords:
If one of your accounts is compromised, using unique passwords for different accounts can help. It can be difficult to keep track of multiple secure passwords, so using a password manager such as KeePass or LastPass can help to keep you safe.
Both KeePass and LastPass are free, but your information is stored in various ways. KeePass keeps your computer with an encrypted database file while LastPass stores your credentials in the cloud. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, but both services are completely safe.