How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
In a recent survey, 75% of tablet owners and 57% of smartphone / mobile phone owners
stated that they use public Wi-Fi hotspots. The number of free public Wi-Fi hotspots is growing,
but not every hotspot can provide the protection of a private home network, data sent through
public Wi-Fi can easily be intercepted, many mobile device and laptop users are risking the
security of their personal information, digital identity and money. Furthermore, if their device
or computer is not protected by an effective security and anti-malware product- the risks are
If you want to keep your information and files secure, read these essential tips for
protecting yourself when you're away from home.
Turn Off Sharing
You may share your music library, printers or files, or even allow remote login from
other computers on your Wi-Fi network in the privacy of your own home. Unless you disable these
settings before connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, anyone else in the vicinity may be able
to hack into your PC.
If you're using a Windows PC, you'll want to start by opening the advanced sharing settings
of the Homegroup section of the Network and Internet settings in the Control Panel. From here,
you'll be able to toggle file and printer sharing as well as network discovery, which will
make your computer visible to anyone connected to the same network. For Mac, just go to System
Preferences, then Sharing, and make sure none of the options are checked.
Practice Good Internet Hygiene
Perhaps the first and biggest piece of advice we can give you, beyond software, and beyond
tools that promise to protect your privacy, is to practice good internet hygiene. Avoid working
with-at least online-sensitive data when you're using unsecured, public Wi-Fi. It may be a
good time to check the news or read your favorite blogs, but it's probably not the best time
to do your online banking, if you catch my drift. Of course, if you have methods to secure
yourself like the ones we mention below, you can rest a little easier in this regard, but remember,
you should care about security on that coffee shop network. It's unlikely that someone's snooping
on it, but it only takes once to lead to identity theft, or worse.
Avoid using specific types of website
It's a good idea to avoid logging into websites where there's a chance that cybercriminals
could capture your identity, passwords or personal information - such as social networking
sites, online banking services or any websites that store your credit card information.
Avoid Automatically Connecting to Wi-Fi Hotspots
Your smartphone or tablet may be set to automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi
hotspot, a setting that can seriously endanger your privacy. Not only will this allow your
device to connect to public networks without your express permission, you may also be automatically
connecting to malicious networks set up specifically to steal your information.
Most modern smartphones have this option disabled by default, but this isn't always the
case, and it's a setting you should always double-check. First, open the Wi-Fi section of your
phone's settings app. If you don't see an option to disable auto-connecting, you're already
safe. Otherwise, turn this setting off.
Consider using your mobile phone
If you need to access any websites that store or require the input of any sensitive information
- including social networking, online shopping and online banking sites - it may be worthwhile
accessing them via your mobile phone network, instead of the public Wi-Fi connection.
Regular websites transfer content in plain text, making it an easy target for anyone
who has hacked into your network connection. Many websites use HTTPS to encrypt the transfer
data, but you shouldn't rely on the website or Web service to keep you protected.
You can create this encrypted connection with the browser extension HTTPS Everywhere.
With this plugin enabled, almost all website connections are secured with HTTPS, ensuring that
any data transfer is safe from prying eyes.