Securing Your Data Privacy When Connecting to a Public Wifi Network

September 11, 2019

These days, accessing the internet is no longer a problem, wherever you may be. Airports, coffee shops, hotels, shopping malls, and many other public establishments offer free Wi-Fi access so you can check your mail or social media while on the go.

However, one drawback of this convenience is, it puts your cyber security at risk. With that in mind, here are some of the ways to protect your data privacy when using public Wi-Fi networks.

1. Use a VPN.

One of the best ways to protect your traffic when connecting to public Wi-Fi is to use a virtual private network (VPN). With a VPN, your internet traffic passes through an encrypted tunnel to get from your computer to the provider. This ensures that local eavesdroppers using the same public Wi-Fi network can't track what you're doing, let alone tap into your traffic.

For smartphone owners, there are mobile apps you can download that lets a VPN automatically start when you connect to a public hotspot.

2. Check if you’re using a legitimate wireless connection.

Malicious users may set up bogus links with a connection name that’s similar to that in venues providing free Wi-Fi access. To be sure you’re using a legitimate connection, try asking an employee at the location. Check if it’s their official Wi-Fi access point and request information like their connection’s IP address and name.  

3. Make sure your session is encrypted.

This can't be stressed enough: when browsing through public Wi-Fi, ensure that your session stays encrypted. Look at your URL field–you should always see HTTPS instead of HTTP.

Take note that some sites encrypt your login only to send you to an HTTP connection later in the session, which puts your cyber security at risk. Always encrypt your entire session to remain protected from a hacking attack.

4. Never give away too much information.

Be careful when signing up for public Wi-Fi access, especially during instances when you are being asked for personal details such as your phone number or email address. If you know there’s no other option for you but to connect to networks like this, just go to locations you trust. It’s also a good idea to use an alternative email address instead of giving away your primary email.

5. Regularly update your antivirus software.

Antivirus software adds a layer of protection between your computer and the public Wi-Fi network you’re connected to, so keep your antivirus program updated regularly. If you don’t have one, have one installed on your device before connecting to any other network outside your home. The software will alert you if there are suspicious activities or if any known viruses made their way into your device.

 

The best way to stay safe from cyber security problems caused by public Wi-Fi is not to use it at all. Consider going online at home to download music and videos you can access offline when you’re out and about. Another option is to use the hotspot function of your phone in case you really need to go online while outside.

If there’s no other option but to connect to a public Wi-Fi, always follow the above-mentioned tips to keep your private data safe from cybercriminals.  

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