More often than ever you will see users attempting to research about public Wi-Fi safety due to the advancement of technology and the dangers that come with it. Many articles don’t cover all the possibilities of connection fraud and malicious programs that can steal identities when connected to unsecured networks.
Today we will take the darker route on the public Wi-Fi subject and talk about ways you can keep your identity safe and fight off any criminal action.
1. Luring Hotspots
With technology becoming friendlier for users of all levels, things are becoming a little too easy to do. A popular fraudulent scam that has been going around is opening a public Wi-Fi network and renaming it something luring such as “Restaurant Wi-Fi”. What this does is fool the users into thinking they are picking up complimentary Wi-Fi at the local pizza joint, but in reality, they are falling into someone’s scam. Once connected to these types of networks, you can have the majority of your data taken and even have your screen streamed by another user right from under your nose.
A good idea would be to ask around if that is a secure and legit Wi-Fi network that is being offered to the clientele.
2. Virtual Private Networks
These are powerful tools used to mask the user’s identity from a room full of connected users and works well with open networks. What the program does is essentially take all your information and put it through a shredder so nobody can read it, almost like real life paper shredders. You don’t have to worry though, because when you are finished using the connection, it puts it all back together. This is a great tool for hiding personal information for potential threats and malicious bugs that could be sitting around on unsecured websites.
You will always want to use a VPN on an open network due to the probability that it is unsecured and may have fraudulent lurkers. To find the one that’s right for you, check out this great article.
Having the basic firewall built into your operating system can be extremely beneficial when connecting to open networks, and they are also really easy to enable. They can fight off low-tier bugs and invasions onto your computer when roaming on public Wi-Fi; also they warn the user of any entries that may cause harm to data.
There are many third party firewall programs on the market and many of them have some great features for Wi-Fi protection but they may be a little harder to set up for the novice user.
4. File Sharing
Believe it or not, but there are many active users who never knew they had a file sharing option built into their pc. While in a room full of users, such as a café or library, you should definitely turn these features off as they can give anyone an open door into your files. Make sure to always shut off File Sharing and Network Discovery when out in public.
5. Money Transfers
Stay away from anything that has to do with money or bank related information on an unsecured public network. Imagine you’re checking the balance on your checking account, and the guy across from you having his doughnut is watching you through a Wi-Fi stream, which can lead to one of the worst days of your life. Most sites that have anything to do with money contain too much information for public use; addresses, phone numbers, credit cards, bank routing numbers and more. If you absolutely have to do something like this, use all security measures to keep yourself safe, and make sure to change all passwords once you get home.
6. Email Hacking
The email is the heart and soul of information for many users, and this is why you should avoid usage of emails on public networks. Taking the time to log into a cyber-cafe or any library, and you may leave that vital information logged into the computer for the next person to use. When on open public Wi-Fi networks, you can leave yourself open to your account being stolen and having that information exploited.
Remember to change all passwords to emails and banking websites once home after public use.
7. Mobile Security
Mobile devices do not have the amount of security options as a full-on operating system. They cannot accurately check for HTTP: secure websites either and this can be your biggest flaw when surfing the web at a local café. Because the security is so low, it is highly recommended you stay away from any sites that may contain vital information to the user.
Disable Bluetooth and file sharing options on your phone when out and about, as this can allow public entry.
8. When To Shut Wi-Fi Off
When no longer using your laptop or mobile device, it is best to shut off the Wi-Fi feature to block potential invasions without your knowledge. Being by the device you might be able to stop something from happening, but while idle and not paying attention, you can have someone sneak into your system and cause a big mess.
9. Complex Passwords
Getting a little more into detail about the passwords I can tell you that the more complex they are, the harder they are to crack and can cause criminals to give up. Someone can attempt to crack passwords to accounts you are using in an open public Wi-Fi network. It would be wise to always change the passwords to all accounts you logged into in public once you get home. If you are like myself, and cannot come up with detailed passwords, there are many guides to show you how and websites that can provide a high level security generator.
10. HTTP Secure Websites
Open public Wi-Fi networks are not known for their security connections and, that being said, it is better to stay on the safer side of things. You usually don’t want to surf into websites that are not HTTP: secure on unsecured networks as this can make you an even easier target for identity theft. To make sure sites are secure, take the time to look at the URL address bar and look for the HTTP: at the start of the URL.
If you feel like this could be a very tedious thing to do, you can always use Google Chrome and have it made simple for all users. When searching for HTTP: secure sites on Google Chrome you want to look at the address bar and see a bright green lock. If you see anything else you should take it as a warning and not post any personal information.
Open public Wi-Fi doesn’t always have to be a scary thought, but I wanted to explore that realm and let you know about the possibilities. I hope you keep safe the next time you decide to travel or visit a local hotspot.