If you use public WiFi networks at your local coffee shop or library, you’re not alone. Thousands of people log onto these convenient networks every day. Convenient, fast, and accessible, these systems make it simple to shop, scan social media, or communicate with friends – no matter where you are. The downside, though, is that public WiFi security can be hard to ensure.
According to Norton, 22% of Wi-Fi users access their banking or financial information on public networks, while 56% access social media accounts and 58% check personal email. While these actions might seem inconsequential, these simple online habits can put you at risk for hacking and security breaches. Because public WiFi is just that, public, it’s a safe bet that anything you do on these networks can be intercepted and monitored by anyone else on the network at the same time.
So, where does that leave you? Are you supposed to stop using public WiFi altogether? Luckily, the answer is no. Instead, you’ll just want to abide by some simple public WiFi security tips.
5 Tips for Public WiFi Security
Whether you use public WiFi for work or leisure, these five tips will help you keep your information secure the next time you visit the local coffee shop:
1. Pay Close Attention to Network Names
Say you’re at International Coffee Traders, and you want to access their WiFi network. You open the WiFi menu on your phone or computer and see two networks: “International Coffee Traders Public” and “International Koffee Traders Public.” Which one do you choose?
While the difference is subtle, it’s highly likely that “International Koffee Traders Public” is a phishing network designed to steal your information.
These look-alike networks have long been used by hackers to trick WiFi users and steal their information. With this in mind, be sure you’re logging onto the right WiFi network each time. If you have any doubts about which network is legitimate, don’t hesitate to ask the staff of the facility.
2. Choose Secured Networks
Secured networks have a lock icon next to them, and require a password to access. In most cases, these networks are offered by public institutions, coffee shops, and schools, which will provide users with the password upon request. While these networks are still public and still pose a risk of hacking and phishing, they’re much safer than unsecured networks.
3. Use Your Own Hotspot
Instead of connecting to public WiFi, why not create your own hotspot? Most cell phones and laptops offer an option to become your own WiFi hotspot. Since this option doesn’t require you to go through public WiFi, it’s much more secure than just logging onto a local network.
Curious about how to enable your own hotspot? Here’s a breakdown from Tech Insider:
4. Use a VPN, Instead
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network.” In recent years, VPNs have become all the rage for people concerned about the loopholes in public WiFi. VPNs work to create a tunnel between your computer and the server. In this way, they encrypt your transmitted information and make it harder for hackers or phishing attempts to intercept it.
If you’ve never used a VPN, there are many ways to access one. There are various VPN services you can choose to work with, and the process of picking the right one for you just comes down to finding one you like and paying for it. Once you sign up, the VPN will help ensure anonymity and security when you access the web.
5. Be Mindful of How You Use Public WiFi
If you’re going to use public WiFi, one of the best things you can do is be cautious of how you use it. When you log onto a network, act like someone is watching everything you do. If possible, avoid accessing your bank or financial accounts, social profiles, and personal networks. While this still isn’t a foolproof approach, the less sensitive you keep your public WiFi interactions, the less likely it is you’ll run into a problem.
Better Public WiFi Security Starts Here
While most of us use public WiFi, lots of people don’t know how to keep themselves safe on public networks. Luckily, these five tips can help mitigate the threats associated with public WiFi and ensure your data remains secure, no matter how many coffee shops you visit.