Hitting the coffee shop after a day at the mall or simply getting a change of scene offers a welcome respite. It is also a great time to check your phone and maybe do a little bit of work on your laptop over a latte. This is all great especially as free wi-fi enables you to surf the net without incurring data costs.
There is a downside, however, and that is that they’re hackers of every kind that can easily gain access to your phones, tablets, and laptops. Public wi-fi is not very secure so let’s look at some tips to keep your data including financial data out of the wrong hands.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Virtual private networks (VPN) are the safest way to use a public wi-fi network. How VPNs protect your privacy? They encrypt data between server and browser funnelling it through a ‘tunnel’. This protects your data from hacking.
In addition, they mask your IP address replacing it with their own. This adds an additional layer of privacy and protection that you simply don’t have unless you are using a VPN.
There are plenty of good VPNs on the market and you may want to visit VPNComparison to get a feel for what is available. As a rule of thumb paid rather than free VPNs are more effective.
What if you don’t have a VPN? Follow these precautions to keep your data safe.
Check the Wi-Fi is Legit
One method hackers used to capture data from public networks is to set up a dummy network. Unsuspecting folks log into this network allowing hackers to access to their data. As a general rule check with staff that any network is legitimate.
It is also wise to switch off sharing experiences when using public wi-fi and to tell your device to forget the network once you are done surfing.
Never Check Finances on a Public Network
Never check or make payments using a public network. You could be handing your details over to hackers who will use it to steal your money and your identity. With your full name and address, they could apply for a loan in your name and you would be none the wiser until you receive repayment letters. Not to mention your login details to PayPal and the like.
As such, it is best to keep financial information away from public wi-fi.
Surf Only HTTPS Sites
Sites that use HTTPS in the address bar are more secure than sites that only have HTTP. They encrypt the data between browser and web server preventing the data being stolen in transit. This provides an extra layer of protection which is vital to keeping data secure.
Firewalls and Antiviruses
Ensure you keep viruses and antiviruses switched on when surfing public wi-fi. They can help to prevent hacker attacks of every kind. Primarily, they stop malware from taking hold of your device. This is invaluable.
So How Real is the Threat?
The threat is real but it is not just criminal gangs that are after your data but your government as well. The not for profit Electronic Frontier Foundation has requested a federal court to rule the ability of government agencies to search devices without a warrant at U.S ports is unconstitutional.
With this in mind, it is prudent to use precautions when using public wi-fi.