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How to Secure Your Public Wi-Fi Connection

It’s virtually impossible to conceive a day without access to Wi-Fi. There is a widespread belief that Internet accessibility is just as necessary as food, water, and the air that we breathe. Given the ubiquity of IoT hardware and software, it’s hard to dispel that notion. Truth be told, life goes on without the Internet albeit at a much slower pace.

tips to secure public wifi

The information we can access on our smartphones, tablets, phablets, PCs and smart devices is leaps and bounds ahead of erstwhile resources like the World Book Encyclopedia, Time Magazine, or the conventional telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell. Today’s technology is the foundation stone upon which tomorrow’s innovation is being built. For that reason, Wi-Fi forms the bedrock of everything that is yet to come. Therein lies the challenge: Safety and security on the World Wide Web.

What Steps Can You Take to Enhance the Security of Your Public Internet Connectivity?

Everybody knows about basic steps that can be taken to improve your safety and security when using public Wi-Fi connections. For example, if you must use public Wi-Fi, try and sit with your back against the wall so that nobody else can read over your shoulder. The last thing you want is somebody seeing your username/password information, and logging in pretending to be you. Identity theft is a big problem, and sometimes people don’t recover from the damage that is caused.

It is probably best never to log into your online bank account in a public place when Wi-Fi is unencrypted. There are simply too many bad actors operating in cyberspace for you to attempt such a foolhardy move. Certain public Wi-Fi spots offer passwords to users, and this is a little safer than no password access although still ill-advised for personal transactions.

➜ Steps to Guard Your Wi-Fi Against Malicious Activities

1. Update Windows/Mac Regularly

Whether you’re running Windows or Mac, be sure to update your software and always stay updated. Part of the reason there are software updates, to begin with, is that new and improved code is being written to patch vulnerabilities in the software. Whenever you get a prompt to update your software – do it, don’t delay. Just make sure that automatic updates are enabled. If this option is enabled then updates will be auto-installed on your Mac or Windows PC.

2. Change Network Sharing Settings

Your Internet settings allow you to choose between public and private networks. Within this arena, there are things known as resource sharing (Wi-Fi printers, cloud accessibility etc.). You don’t want to turn on file and printer sharing, and to turn on network discovery when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network. From your control panel on Windows PCs or other devices simply access the advanced sharing settings and be sure to turn those public profile elements off. If you’re not visible, you can’t be hacked.

3. Use a Good VPN

Best Online Reviews (a leading review site for online security systems) recommends using a VPN (virtual private network) to mask your computer’s IP address and all traffic flowing from your device. Unsecured networks are as safe as houses when you use a high-quality VPN service. Since nobody knows where the traffic flow is coming from when you use a VPN from your computer, it doesn’t matter whether you are in a public Wi-Fi network or an encrypted Wi-Fi network. The best virtual private networks do not keep logs of customer activity.

4. Use 2-Factor Authentication Wherever Possible

If you must use public Wi-Fi and you are going to be conducting personal transactions, ensure that your browser and the security settings you have in place are up to date. If possible, try to access websites that require 2-factor authentication – email and smartphone verification to validate your ID.
If you have antivirus software and firewall protection enabled on your device, keep it active over public Wi-Fi networks. These serve as an additional security barrier against malicious actors.

5. Check for HTTPS

The web address you use in your browser should begin with HTTPS. The ‘S’ at the end stands for secure and it means that you have a secure web address in your browser. When communications are encrypted, you are at lower risk of being hacked. There are programs that you can install – freeware – that allow you to access secure socket layer websites regardless of the browser you’re using. All popular websites like Facebook, Google, Twitter use https. If you don’t see https in the address bar then it is a fake copy of these popular websites.

6. Use Your Personal Wi-Fi Hotspot While Traveling

Today’s PCs, notebooks, and modern laptops can easily pick up Wi-Fi hotspots. If you have a service contract with an Internet provider, rather use your Wi-Fi hotspot when you’re traveling. It is fully encrypted, and it won’t put any additional strain on your phone or your contract. You’re simply piggybacking off the signal that your phone is receiving from the cell tower.

It is always better to carry your personal Wi-Fi hotspot with you instead of using free public Wi-Fi connections. However, if a public Wi-Fi offers some sort of security then it is also not advisable to use them blindly. If you want to connect to public Wi-Fi connections safely then use a VPN and good quality antivirus software. These two programs if installed on your computer will make the Wi-Fi connection much safer. A VPN will hide your identity and encrypt your internet traffic while the antivirus will protect your PC from malicious attacks.

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