Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi Networks
Whether you are using your laptop at the local coffee shop or accessing the Internet from your smartphone, it is tempting to rely on local Wi-Fi networks to stay connected and get the information you need. Whether you want to save your precious data minutes or just enjoy a more stable connection, public Wi-Fi is very convenient and simple to use.
Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi is not always the safest way to surf the net and access your various accounts. That is because it is easy for criminals and hackers to set up fake Wi-Fi networks designed to steal personal information, capture passwords and wreak all kinds of havoc.
Even legitimate public Wi-Fi networks are often targeted by hackers and criminal gangs, and the owner of the network may not even know their system has been compromised. It is almost impossible for the average end user to know that the legitimate looking Wi-Fi network has been compromised, so caution is the watchword.
There are ways to stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks, but it takes a bit of extra work to protect yourself and your data. You can start by making sure that the public Wi-Fi network that pops up on your smartphone, tablet or laptop is legitimate. If you are visiting the local coffee shop or fast food restaurant, ask the people behind the counter for the name of their Wi-Fi network and turn off any other Wi-Fi hotspots that pop up along the way.
You can also protect yourself by adding a VPN app to your smartphone or downloading VPN software to your laptop. VPN stands for virtual private network, and it provides an encrypted tunnel between your device and the outside world. This kind of software is widely available, and there are plenty of free VPN options out there.
Even if you choose to use a secure VPN, you should exercise caution when connected to a public Wi-Fi network. A public Wi-Fi network is not the place to check your bank balances, buy and sell stocks or share your most intimate secrets.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to avoid any website that requires you to enter a user name and password to gain access. Even the most well-policed network can become the victim of a hacking attempt, and you never know when that hack will reveal the credentials you type.
Having access to a public Wi-Fi network can be very convenient, especially when you are traveling and unable to gain access in other ways. As long as you exercise caution and use common sense, you can surf safely on public Wi-Fi networks, enjoying the security of the modern era without succumbing to its dangers.