Most internet users love free Wi-Fi and most either do not understand the risks or frankly do not care. This is obvious from the number of people who will log in without a second thought in airports, coffee shops or restaurants, mostly to update their apps and save on their data usage. Wi-Fi has made our lives that much easier, but it poses unseen risks to our data that we store on our smartphones and smartphones.
Before you connect to use public networks, don’t forget these precautions.
Carry your Wi-Fi
The best precaution you can ever take with untrusted internet networks is simply not using them. This does not make the Wi-Fi safe, but if possible, you can carry your Wi-Fi hotspot, or you can tether your smartphone and make use of your mobile carrier’s data. Both options allow you to avoid risky public Wi-Fi at the airport and use cellular data.
Cellular data prices vary and not everyone can afford this option, but some may have a pay-as-you-use plan. If you do not want to buy and carry an extra device, use your smartphone and carry an extra battery pack, as well as watch your data as you work.
Use a Wi-Fi VPN
When you constantly use public Wi-Fi, especially if you travel a lot, the best protection you can ever give yourself is to download a VPN. A VPN creates a private network within the public network and encrypts your data, ensuring it cannot be read by anyone who attempts to intercept it.
Most VPNs such as Express VPN use AES 256 (Advanced Encryption Standard) which means it has 256-bit keys. This encryption is the same standard used by the U.S government to encrypt classified documents and adopted by most security experts in the world.
A VPN not only encrypts data but also ides your location and masks your location. If you travel to a location where the internet is not very secure and experiences geoblocking, the VPN will allow you to connect as if you were back home.
When choosing a VPN, always go for the paid plans, as they are more reliable. Free VPN providers will cost likely log all your activities online and use your browsing trends to tailor ads to you. They offer good features, but since privacy is what you are looking for, avoid the free VPNs.
Use HTTP everywhere
Where HTTPS works, please use it without hesitation, even though it is not perfect. It ensures your connection to any site is secure and the information you exchange with the website has encrypted both ways. This goes a long way in ensuring that any person listening in to your conversations does not access any sensitive data.
The internet snoopers scour the network looking for passwords, credit card numbers or access to logged-in accounts via session cookies.
Turn off Wi-Fi when not in use
One of the basic rules of thumb in security is if you are not using Wi-Fi or other apps do not connect. Once you are done using the internet, turn the Wi-Fi off on your tablet, smartphone or laptop. If you pass through places with untrusted networks, this good security habit will save you from hackers and stops your battery from draining.
This is easy to do on both Windows and iOS, and you can change your laptop settings for it to turn the Wi-Fi on automatically after some time offline. You can download copies of your documents and emails to work offline or use Google Drive or other services offline.
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Keep your anti-malware and anti-virus updated
Anybody who uses public networks, no matter how rare, should ensure their computer is running an anti-malware and anti-virus software. Whichever brand of software you use, just ensure you keep it running and up to date, especially when you are on the move. Public networks can inject ads into your device as you browse.
Download browser privacy protectors
Anti-malware only protects you from the programs you download and execute and bars malware or malvertising from getting into your system. The next best thing you can do is install tools on your browser that protect your privacy. If you use an ad browser, you can customize it and decide what to block, and what not to. The disconnect option protects you from attacks from the same network such as clickjacking and session hijacking, which can give hackers access to your accounts.
Turn off file sharing and AirDrop
You cannot control who is on the public networks, but you can control your device. Whether you are using a Mac or Wi ndows OC, your computer has file-sharing options that will assume you are on a network you trust with other computers you trust. On either OS, switch off file sharing, enable the in-built system firewalls, and keep apps and services that use the internet to a bare minimum. For Mac users, you can set AirDrop to only contacts.
Ensure you confirm where you connect
In a man-in-the-middle technique known as phishing, hackers create a Wi-Fi that closely resembles a free Wi-Fi network in the same area. For example, in a coffee shop, the network might have the name Coffee and Wi-Fi. Hackers may create another one, which is almost similar, such as Coffee and Wi-Fi1, which confuses many people, and they log in, unaware of this is a malicious network.
Before you connect, look for an employee of the place and ask which one is their Wi-Fi. Once you log on a fake network, hackers steal all your passwords and sensitive information such as credit card numbers.
Practice clean browsing
Beyond tools and software, the best advice that will protect your privacy is good internet practices. Do not work online with sensitive data when on public and unsecured Wi-Fi. You can probably check out your favorite news website, but you should try to stay away from online banking. The lesser you give hackers something to work with, the less your chances of being hacked.
Ask to connect
You can change the settings in your devices to ask for permission before connecting to any network. If you had set the device to connect to whichever open and strongest network in the vicinity, or a network they were previously been connected to, set them to ask before connecting. You should never assume that the secure network in one place and with the same name is as secure elsewhere. Any hacker with the right software can spoof a network’s SSID or broadcast name.
Use a password manager
You might have too many passwords you need to remember and you may have to enter some of them when on public networks. If hackers happen to be sniffing packages and picking data, they can see everything you type and send via the network.
You should use a password manager, which encrypts and stores your passwords, even on your mobile apps. If you use your passwords, ensure you use them on websites you can use the two-factor authentication. This authentication ensures you have a password, and a second passcode is sent to a device that only you have access to. If a hacker got hold of your first password, it is of no help without the second passcode.
People need to be more vigilant on public networks. Most hackers set up shop on such networks as in busy airports or coffee shops. The hackers know that some people will be careless and not take precautions. They capitalize on this, and if they sniff enough packets, they will mine enough data such as passwords and credit card numbers. If only more people would use the above measures, then we would have fewer people getting hacked in ways they could have avoided.