Feel like studying at a coffee shop or teleworking from a public location? Be careful when using open Wi-Fi networks. Hackers love how easy they are to connect to; it makes it more straightforward for them to steal people’s data. Check out our list of dos and don’ts to help you stay safe on a public Wi-Fi network.
PUBLIC WI-FI DOS
✔️Confirm the network name with staff
If there are multiple networks, ask an employee which one to use. Hackers are known to set up fake networks with similar names to lure people in, so it’s always important to check before you connect.
✔️Use a VPN
AVPN (or virtual private network) encrypts your data and establishes a secure tunnel to keep your browsing anonymous. In other words, the VPN conceals your online activity, significantly reducing your risk of getting hacked. Keep in mind that VPNs require a subscription, and you’ll have to connect to it through your device.
✔️Update your device’s operating system
One of the key reasons for regular device updates is to patch security vulnerabilities. So if your device is not up to date, it’s less secure. Get into the habit of regularly checking for new updates in your device settings.
✔️Protect yourself from prying eyes
It doesn’t take a computer whiz to steal data. Sometimes, the bad guys can just be sitting right behind you! Use caution when entering login information when in public. Make sure your screen is not easy for others to see.
✔️Disable Wi-Fi auto-connect
When this setting is enabled, your phone automatically connects to the nearest available Wi-Fi network. To avoid unwittingly connecting to a dubious network, disable auto-connect whenever you’re out and about. And always remember to disconnect from public Wi-Fi when you’re done.
✔️ Keep an eye on BluetoothTM-connected devices
If your mobile phone or computer has Bluetooth enabled, keep a close eye on the list of connected devices. Cybercriminals could attempt to use Bluetooth to access your device and spy on you. Here’s how to turn off Bluetooth:
Two-factor authentication is like a digital double lock that requires you to provide a second form of verification, such as a code sent via text or your fingerprint, when you log into accounts that contain personal information. Two-factor authentication is increasingly common; you should enable it whenever possible. It’s a game-changer for foiling hackers, because they’ll need more than just your password to get into your account.
✔️Stick to secure websites (HTTPS)
Secure websites have URLs that begin with “https” and often display a padlock icon in the address bar. Such sites use a secure protocol that encrypts any data exchanged between you and the website.
✔️Log out of your accounts once you’re done
This is a must if you’re using a shared computer, and a good habit to get into on your mobile device. That way, you won’t accidentally leave apps open and connected—and your personal data exposed.
PUBLIC WI-FI DON’TS
Don’t make transactions
❌ Never make online purchases on public Wi-Fi. It’s too risky, as critical information, like your credit card number, could fall into the wrong hands. Also avoid sending or accepting bank transfers.
❌Do not connect to an unsecured network
If a network doesn’t require a password, it means it’s not secure! A secure network will ask you for some sort of identifier or password. For example, in hotels, you may be asked to enter your room number to access Wi-Fi. The password to enter is provided by the establishment (often displayed on a sign or on your receipt). Unsecured networks are the most vulnerable because they’re more appealing to hackers.
❌ Don’t log into accounts that contain personal information
When you’re on public Wi-Fi—and especially on a shared computer—stay away from online government files, bank accounts, electricity accounts, and so on. Hackers could hijack your credentials and access your personal data.
What if you have no choice but to visit a site that requires you to enter personal information? Disconnect from public Wi-Fi and use your mobile device’s hotspot feature instead. Your phone will create a secure Wi-Fi hotspot protected by a password that you set (be sure to use a strong password). Just keep in mind that this will use up your mobile data. Learn how to activate a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
Hone your “cybersecurity” skills
Surfing safely on public Wi-Fi is kind of like driving: there are lots of safety practices to follow, but the more you use them, the more they become second nature! For more cybersecurity tips, stay tuned to the Forum and our social media channels throughout October. Safe surfing!