How to Stay Safe When Using Public Wi-Fi

You may be aware that many business and public buildings offer free wireless internet to their customers. Here are the basics you need to know to enjoy and stay safe on Public WI-FI.

Public WI-FI is just a publicly available wireless network that anyone can connect to and utilize. These access points can be a lifesaver. If you are out and about and don’t have an unlimited data plan for your device; connecting to a Public access point can conserve your data for when you need it. Because your device will use the data provided by the access point instead of the cell towers.

Here is some great advice from the FTC on staying safe while connected to Public WI-FI:

  • Keep in mind that these public WI-FI access points are not secure. It just means that you need to take precautions when doing so. When using a hotspot, log in or send personal information only to websites you know are fully encrypted. To be secure, your entire visit to each site should be encrypted – from the time you log in to the site until you log out. If you think you’re logged in to an encrypted site but find yourself on an unencrypted page, log out right away. You can often recognize an encrypted site by a lock icon in the address bar.
  • Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’ve finished using an account, log out.
  • Do not use the same password on different websites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.
  • Pay attention to your browser’s warnings, and keep your browser and security software up-to-date. Many web browsers alert users who try to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious programs.
  • Consider changing the settings on your mobile device so it doesn’t automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi. That way, you have more control over when and how your device uses public Wi-Fi.
  • If you regularly access online accounts through Wi-Fi hotspots, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the internet, even on unsecured networks. You can get a personal VPN account from a VPN service provider. In addition, some organizations create VPNs to provide secure, remote access for their employees. What’s more, VPN options are available for mobile devices; they can encrypt information you send through mobile apps.

Additionally, avoid using the web to access anything directly connected to your finances when on public WI-FI, as banking information is typically a primary target of attackers. When you use Public WI-FI, use it wisely, and you will be just fine.

For more information, check out this article from the FTC.