Many organizations have found the convenience of remote work. So if you frequent cafes or travel to work and rely on public Wi-Fi, you need to be more careful. Such Wi-Fi networks are not always secure, mainly depending on who is connected to them. So you need to be more careful. In this article, we’ll show you eight ways to use public Wi-Fi safely.
We didn’t want to scare you in the very first paragraph, but online security is the need of the hour. So, by reading this article, you will understand what it means to use public Wi-Fi networks, the risks associated with it and how to protect yourself from fraudulent transactions. Let’s start with the basics.
What does an unsecured network mean
It’s always nice to find fast open Wi-Fi in public places. But before you jump in, there are a few things you should know. First, it doesn’t have a password. This means that it does not have any security and is thus called an unsecured network. So, if a hacker were around and felt the urge to do some nasty things online on this unsecured network, there’s very little stopping them.
But how can malicious activity be carried out on an open Wi-Fi network? Let’s find out.
How Hackers Take Advantage of Public Wi-Fi Users
- Fake hot spots: There is always the possibility of several open free Wi-Fi networks with malicious intent masquerading as safe. However, this can be dangerous as all your online activity can be easily viewed or sometimes even monitored.
- Fake system update notifications: A malicious Wi-Fi network can trigger a phishing attempt through a fake system update. And the moment you accept this, it’s very easy for a hacker to extract and access all your data or even push Trojans and other elements to gain control of your systems.
- File sharing: It’s incredibly easy to share files between devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network and one that’s not. As mentioned earlier, a malicious network can upload files to your system to access and control your data.
But don’t worry – in the next section of the article, we have told you methods to use public Wi-Fi safely. You can definitely achieve a good level of online protection with these methods.
How to protect yourself on public Wi-Fi
There are many ways to stay safe while using public Wi-Fi. On the one hand, if there are ways to compromise your security, there are also ways to fight back and stay safe. Here’s how you can do it.
1. Use only secured Wi-Fi
We strongly advise you to use secured Wi-Fi networks. Only use password-protected networks, or networks where you are immediately directed to a Wi-Fi login page to enter your details and receive a password, or to log in directly to the network.
However, if there’s no way to use a secure network and you have no other choice – here’s how you can use a VPN to protect yourself.
2. Use a VPN
We previously discussed how you can be easily eavesdropped while using a public Wi-Fi network. However, wouldn’t it be great if we could route the network through a secure environment? In this way, you will surely be able to achieve more privacy.
This is exactly what a VPN does. It routes your internet traffic back and forth through a secure private server. While there are many free VPN options available, we recommend that you choose a premium service such as ExpressVPN or Nord VPN. These services offer a reliable and secure VPN.
3. Turn off auto-connect features
Some devices automatically connect to an open network. Now that we know the dangers of using a public network, we obviously don’t want to automatically connect to it. Therefore, you can always use your device’s Wi-Fi settings to disable the auto-connect feature.
For example, on an iPhone, you can set the “Automatically join hotspot” feature to never or “Invite to join.” The latter ensures that you will always be informed about the public network, but you will only be connected after your confirmation.
4. Enable 2FA for all sensitive apps
When you’re using unsecured public Wi-Fi, there’s always the risk that a malicious network can steal your account information. However, you can prevent any misuse of this information by enabling 2-factor authentication on all your devices.
This means that every time there’s an attempt to sign in to your account using 2FA, you’ll get a notification and a second step – such as confirming your sign-in with a second device or entering your one-time password via SMS.
This is a great way to stay safe and prevent damage when using public Wi-Fi safely. All major online services that involve logging in provide you with a two-factor authentication feature. Turn it on!
5. Make sure your device is updated to the latest versions
Software updates are essential for adding security patches to your device. Therefore, it is always recommended to use the latest version of the software. So, keep checking whether your device has received the software update or not.
That way, you can at least make sure that your device has all the software elements that keep you safe and secure when using a public Wi-Fi network.
6. Only visit HTTPS sites
There are two main Internet protocols that you should be aware of – HTTP and HTTPS
HTTP is a protocol used to retrieve content from the Internet and facilitate the exchange of data on the Internet. It’s an unencrypted connection that’s good enough for simple actions or accessing public websites that don’t require you to send your login information.
HTTPS, on the other hand, is a secure connection that encrypts critical data you upload to the Internet, such as your username and password. It prohibits people from following the same.
Enabling the always-on HTTPS option converts HTTP connections to HTTPS. If you enable always-on HTTPS, browsers will use an encrypted HTTPS connection on any site that supports it.
Therefore, you should always make sure that you are visiting a site that operates on the HTTPS protocol. This way, you can use public Wi-Fi safely and worry-free.
7. Make sure your firewall or Defender is turned on
If you’re using a Windows machine, you should be aware of the built-in firewall and Windows Defender. They are a great tool to protect yourself from harmful elements on the Internet. So, whenever you are connected to a public Wi-Fi network, always make sure that the online protection option is enabled in Windows Defender.
8. Avoid financial transactions
Financial transactions involve a large amount of confidential and sensitive information. Although we have many methods to help you use public Wi-Fi safely, we recommend that you avoid any financial transactions as this is always risky.
We also say this because it is impossible to know every element of a public Wi-Fi network. Suppose you are setting up a Wi-Fi network at home, you can make sure that you get the most secure Wi-Fi router or talk to your service provider to ensure the best level. However, this is not the case with public Wi-Fi. So, avoid any financial activity in such networks.
Use public Wi-Fi safely and worry-free
These are some tips for using public Wi-Fi safely. We hope you have a comprehensive answer the next time you’re sipping your coffee and wondering if Starbucks Wi-Fi is secure. So, it’s nice to spend time in a cafe and end the work day without worrying about your online safety. Happy surfing!