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Using Public Wi-Fi More Safely

man using wifi

When you’re on the go and need to use your mobile device, public Wi-Fi hotspots are a convenient way to connect your device. While convenient, it is important to protect your personal information because the network may not be as secure as you may think. Encryption is important to keeping your information secure when you’re online. So while at the airport, coffee shop, restaurant, repair shop, or anywhere where you’re going to use public Wi-Fi, here are a few tips to help you surf safely.

Using Encryption

Encryption scrambles the personal information you send over the Internet. If you’re using a wireless network to send personal information, only send information over websites that are encrypted. Look for websites that have https at the beginning of the web address. Look for this prefix on each page to make sure the page is encrypted since some websites only secure the home page. You may also choose to only use secure Wi-Fi networks which encrypt all the information you send over the network.

Carefully Choose the Network

Since most hotspots don’t encrypt information, don’t assume that the hotspot is secure. If the network doesn’t require a WPA or WPA2 password, it’s probably not secure. If you have a choice, choose “semi-open” Wi-Fi instead of completely open networks. When accessing the Wi-Fi provided by a business, verify the name of the network with the staff before connecting.

Using a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts information and makes it harder for a hacker to obtain your data. If you regularly use online accounts through Wi-Fi hotspots, it is good advice to create a VPN. VPN options are available for mobile devices so you can encrypt information when using mobile apps.

Turn Off File Sharing

Windows and Mac devices typically have file sharing options. When using public Wi-Fi, turn off file sharing and enable your built-in firewalls. If you’re using Mac, set AirDrop to contacts only.

Watch What You Send

When using public Wi-Fi, watch what you send over the network. Do not send sensitive data such as your banking information or social security information through an unsecure network or by email.

Update On Trusted Networks Only

Keeping your browser and devices updated is also important. However, you should update these things when on your trusted home and work networks, not when using public Wi-Fi.

Be Careful Using Mobile Apps

There are many mobile apps that make it easy to access websites and other information. Mobile apps don’t use visible indicators like https and many don’t encrypt information properly. To protect yourself, use a secure wireless network or your phones 3G or 4G data service.

Additional Helpful Information

To protecting your information when using Wi-Fi, remember these tips:

  • Log out of your account and from the service when you’re done. Also, tell your device to forget the network so that it does not automatically connect again if you’re in range.
  • Adjust your mobile device settings to prevent your device from automatically connecting to nearby Wi-Fi.
  • Watch out for website warnings that alert you of fraudulent or suspicious websites.
  • Use good, strong passwords and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Enable two-factor authentication—an additional login code—for an account, if available. This allows extra protection if someone does figures out your password.

Employing these steps can help you browse online more securely.

Related Topics

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Being Smart With Your Smartphone

Protect Your Home Devices from Cyber Attacks with a Simple Task

6 Ways to Secure Your Wireless Network

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.