How to stay safe using public Wi-Fi

Whether it’s at a coffee shop, airport, hotel or library, in an ever-increasing environment of hybrid working, using public Wi-Fi has become part of our daily lives.

 

Using public Wi-Fi, however, comes with risks to your cybersecurity and personal data, in our latest blog we’re giving you our top tips on how to stay safe, wherever you’re accessing the internet.

 

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

One of the most effective ways to secure your online activities on public Wi-Fi is by using a VPN. A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making it nearly impossible for hackers to intercept your data. There are many reputable VPN services available, both free and paid. When connected to a VPN, all your online traffic is encrypted, adding a layer of security to your browsing, email, and any other online activities. Always opt for trusted VPN providers to ensure the highest level of security.

 

Confirm the Network

Before connecting to any public Wi-Fi, verify the network’s legitimacy. The cyber baddies often set up fake networks with names similar to legitimate ones, hoping unsuspecting users will connect. Ask a staff member for the official network name or check for signage with network information. Additionally, some public places may offer secure Wi-Fi, which often requires a password or user credentials. These networks are generally safer than open, unsecured connections.  Our recent blog ‘Top tips for staying safe on the internet’ will also give you some pretty good tips.

 

Disable Sharing

Your device might be configured to share files or resources with other devices on the same network. When using public Wi-Fi, it’s crucial to disable these sharing settings to prevent unauthorized access. Turn off features like file sharing, printer sharing, and public folder sharing in your device settings to keep your data private.

 

Enable a Firewall

Enable your device’s built-in firewall to add an extra layer of protection. Firewalls block incoming and outgoing malicious traffic, safeguarding your device from potential threats. Most operating systems have firewall settings that you can easily configure.

 

Regularly Update Your Device

Keeping your device’s operating system, applications and antivirus software up-to-date is essential. Updates often contain security patches that fix known vulnerabilities which hackers may exploit, by keeping your device updated, you minimize the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks.

 

Browsing with HTTPS

Always look for the “https://” in your browser’s address bar when visiting websites. The “s” stands for secure, indicating that the site uses encryption to protect your data. Additionally, some browsers may display a padlock icon to indicate a secure connection. Avoid entering sensitive information on websites without these security indicators.

 

Use Two-Factor Authentication

Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts whenever possible. Even if someone manages to steal your login credentials, they won’t be able to access your accounts without the second authentication factor, such as a code sent to your phone. This adds an extra layer of protection, especially when using public Wi-Fi.

 

Avoid Online Banking and Shopping

It’s best to avoid accessing your bank accounts or making online purchases while using public Wi-Fi. If you need to perform financial transactions, use your mobile data or a secure VPN connection. These activities involve sensitive information that could be intercepted by cybercriminals on unsecured networks.

 

Forget the Network After Use

Once you’ve finished using a public Wi-Fi network, make sure to disconnect and “forget” the network on your device. Forgetting the network prevents your device from automatically reconnecting the next time you’re in range, reducing the chances of unintentionally connecting to a potentially malicious network.

 

Monitor Your Device

Pay attention to your device while using public Wi-Fi. If you notice any unusual or suspicious behavior, disconnect immediately. Sometimes, cybercriminals deploy various tactics to compromise your device or steal information. Staying vigilant is a key aspect of staying safe on public Wi-Fi.

 

Create Strong Passwords

This may sound pretty obvious, however, make sure your device and accounts are secured with strong, unique passwords. Using a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters can make it harder for hackers to guess or crack your passwords. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords for your accounts.

 

Educate Yourself

Cyber threats are constantly evolving, so it’s essential to stay informed about the latest security risks and best practices for staying safe online. Websites and organisations dedicated to cybersecurity, as well as security awareness training, can be valuable resources to keep you up to date.

 

Encrypt Your Data

Consider encrypting your data, either through built-in device encryption or third-party encryption software. This provides an additional layer of protection, ensuring that even if your device falls into the wrong hands, your data remains inaccessible without the encryption key.

 

 

Summing up, public Wi-Fi is a convenient resource but it comes with security risks that can compromise your personal data and online security. By following these best practices, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling victim to cyberattacks while using public Wi-Fi.

 

If you’re unsure about using public Wi-Fi, head over to our dedicated security or remote working pages or get in touch with our team for a chat.

 

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