Keep Your Computer Safe on Public Networks With These 3 Tips
Nowadays, public Wi-Fi networks are everywhere. Your local library has one, your favorite coffee shop has it, and many airplanes, buses, and trains have them too. And millions of people are using these networks every day.
Although these networks offer a convenient way to freely access the internet, especially if you’ve run out of data, computer users risk the security of their valuable information and digital identity. Furthermore, unless you have an active anti-malware program to protect your computer, the risks on a public network are even higher.
Public Wi-Fi Precautions
When surfing the internet using a public Wi-Fi network, there are a few things to be cautious of and make sure you never do:
- Visit sites that don’t use HTTPS
- Have your laptop auto-connect to any available public Wi-Fi network
- Use or login into any app or site that asks for financial information or any other type of sensitive info
- Check your email
- Log in to websites requiring you to enter sensitive information, including credit card numbers, pins, social security, and ID.
- Turn on network discovery. This feature allows you to find other devices on the same network. Your device will also be visible to other computers connected to the Wi-Fi.
If you are using public Wi-Fi, there are some helpful tips to ensure you remain safe when browsing the internet.
1. Connect to the Right Network
If you can’t avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots, you should at least ensure your computer is well-protected. Always keep in mind, hackers are getting clever everyday (coming up with persuasive tricks to make internet users give up their personal information), so you should surf smart.
Before you connect to any network, verify the Wi-Fi name, and confirm the link is legitimate. Don’t just assume the Wi-Fi link is genuine. It could be a bogus link set up by a cybercriminal that’s trying to steal valuable and personal information from unsuspecting users.
The Risks of Connecting to Malicious Wi-Fi Networks
If you connect to the ‘wrong’ public Wi-Fi networks, attackers can see what pages you browse, and anything else you type on those websites.
Your file-sharing can be visible, too, and ordering items online could expose your credit card information. Hackers can also steal your passwords, usernames, email addresses, bank details, photos, and other crucial files and use them for illegal or unauthorized purposes.
2. Turn Off File Sharing and AirDrop
You might not be able to regulate the people connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, but you can control your device. Whether using Windows or Mac, your computer most likely has a file-sharing feature that automatically assumes you’ve connected to a legitimate network.
Turning off file-sharing options on your computer enables your system’s built-in firewalls, keeping internet-connected apps and services to the minimum. By doing this, you’ll stop cybercriminals and hackers from sending unwanted files or taking control of your data.
Here’s how to turn file sharing and AirDrop:
For Mac Users:
- Go to System Preferences and click on Sharing
- Unselect everything
- Head to Finder, then click on AirDrop
- Select “Allow Me To Be Discovered By No One”
For Windows Users:
- Go to Network and Sharing
- Change advanced sharing settings
- Turn off file and printer sharing
3. Always Use a VPN
There are only two guaranteed options to stay safe when it comes to public Wi-Fi networks:
- Don’t ever connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot
- Always use a VPN while connecting to public networks
While the first option (abstaining from public Wi-Fi networks) is achievable, it’s not exactly practical. Most people these days are relying on the freely available internet for work. Also, public Wi-Fi hotspots ensure you don’t exceed your data limits, which can be quite expensive.
If you are going to use a public Wi-Fi network while on the go, the safest way is to use a VPN. A VPN is a private network that enables you to send and receive data across shared networks over an encrypted connection, locking out any user on the same network who might be spying on you.
Why Use VPN service?
- Enhanced security: Choose the best VPN service for you to keep your data secure and encrypted. Doing this will keep your valuable information safe from hackers.
- Online anonymity: A VPN service allows you to browse the internet in complete anonymity.
- Better performance: Implementing a VPN solution will increase the efficiency and bandwidth of a network.
- Safely share files: You can use VPN service when sharing data with a group (teammates, friends, or clients) for an extended period.
Your computer will always be at risk if you use public Wi-Fi hotspots. But this doesn’t mean you should never use it. By following the simple security awareness tips listed above, you’ll keep your data safe from the majority of cyberattacks against public Wi-Fi networks.