How to Stay Safe on Public Wifi

We talk about the balance of security and convenience often. For example, using the internet in Starbucks is very convenient, however it opens up the possibility of someone viewing and accessing your confidential information. It is very easy for criminals to access your computer while using public wifi. When you are using wifi at coffee shops, hotels, libraries and the airport, you should be diligent in how to keep your information safe.

Let’s be clear, the best way to ensure your safety online is to not use public wifi. However, if that’s not an option or if you live life on the edge here are some tips on how to stay safe while surfing the web.

BYOW (Bring-Your-Own-Wifi)

This is obviously the most secure. You can connect your laptop or tablet to your personal hotspot or wifi. Here are instructions on how to do so.

Create your own Virtual Private Network or “VPN.”

By connecting to a safe, encrypted Virtual Private Network (or VPN) you lessen the threat of intruders gaining access to your computer. It also gives you a new IP address, which makes it more difficult for criminals to find your exact location.

Make sure you are only visiting HTTPS sites.

That extra “s” on the end of the “http” makes all the difference. It stands for “secure” and so that’s exactly where and only where you want to be. Most web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari and others, are flagging nonsecure sites. If you are an internet vagabond and don’t want to constantly monitor the websites you are hopping around to, you can Google the site and Google will let you know whether or not it is a secure site or not.

Protect your privacy.

This is one of the simpler tactics. With tools like uBlock Origin, you can stop (or at least question) those pesky pop up ads. Criminals can embed malware in to pop up ads without anyone even knowing until its too late. Some don’t even require you clicking on them for the malware to be downloaded to your machine.

Don’t download anything while on public wifi.

This means new applications, files in email, and even just updates for your software or applications. If you avoid downloading anything, you eliminate the possibility of accidentally downloading malware.

Keep your antivirus up to date.

This is important as cyber criminals learn new ways around antivirus software. Schedule automated updates to your AV software to make sure you are always running the latest version.

If you’re not using your wifi, turn it off.

By doing this you are eliminating the possibility of criminals accessing your information. You are also saving data and battery power.

Turn off file sharing.

If you are not using a VPN, then you should turn off file sharing. Here is how:

In Windows, go to Control Panel > Network > Sharing Center > Change Advanced Settings, and turn off the file sharing button.

If you are using a Mac, go to System Preferences > Sharing, and turn the sharing option off.

Only use public wifi if needed.

Ask yourself if you really need to use the internet. If it’s not imperative and you’re only perusing the internet to pass time, consider other ways to do so. The most vulnerable public wifi is in airports. People are transient, flustered and in a rush. Criminals know this and attack accordingly. If you don’t have to be online, don’t.

Avoid accessing sensitive information.

The best way to keep your important data safe is to avoid visiting it while on public wifi. Ask yourself if you really need to check your bank accounts and even log in to your email. Believe it or not, a criminal can do A LOT by accessing your email accounts. Also, clear your history and cache often. Close all of your browser windows when you are finished.


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