5 tips to use public WiFi safely



VPN image
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For frequent commuters, hybrid workers and those who simply want quick access to social media or emails on the go, public WiFi networks can be incredibly convenient.

However, open WiFi can also bring security issues that could cause personal information to be compromised. 

Free Wi-Fi networks that you encounter at airports, hotels, coffee shops and other public spaces can all pose a threat to your data. To keep you protected, we’ve got together with the connectivity experts at Bionic to pull together some top tips when using public WiFi.

1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN encrypts your internet connection, providing an extra layer of security to stop others on the same network from intercepting your data. Using a VPN is particularly important when accessing sensitive information such as banking details or confidential work emails.

2. Disable auto-connect

The auto-connect feature will allow your devices to join any available WiFI network. Often, cyberhackers replicate the name of existing networks, so if you were to auto-connect, you might not pay enough attention to realise it isn’t a trusted server. It’s wise to turn the feature off on all devices to have control over which networks you join.

3. Check the website security

In most instances, you should not browse an HTTP site on public networks. HTTP sites do not encrypt data. Anytime you use an open Wi-Fi network, make sure the websites you’re using are secure before entering any personal information, such as passwords or card details. Secure websites will have a padlock icon in the search bar, so be sure to check for this when browsing on public WiFi.

4. Take advantage of two-step authentication (2FA)

2FA is a security method requiring two forms of identity checks. Enabling 2FA wherever possible will add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Even if your password becomes compromised, 2FA provides an additional barrier for cyberhackers trying to access your data or resources.

5. Keep your software up-to-date

Stop selecting the ‘don’t install’ or ‘remind me’ tomorrow options when your device requires an update. Regularly updating your operating system, antivirus software, and other applications will help to minimise security vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of exploitation by malware or hackers. 

Says Les Roberts, connectivity expert at the comparison site Bionic:

“It’s important to understand that no Wi-Fi network is completely risk-free and the safety of your personal information depends considerably on what kind of Wi-Fi network you’re using.

”General security measures such as avoiding the same passwords across multiple sites could be your biggest saviour if all else fails. However it’s still important to take care and refrain from sensitive transactions or confidential conversations until you can access a secure and trusted connection. 

“If you do find your device is slow, there are unexpected pop-ups, or unfamiliar processes running in the background, it’s a likely sign of malicious malware or a hacking attempt. In this instance, disconnect from the internet immediately, run an antimalware scan and change your passwords.”

Chris Price
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