Photo courtesy of Rubertu from Creative Commons
Public Wi-Fi®-wireless network for high-speed accessing of the Internet- is nearly everywhere now. Hotels, coffee shops, airports, and restaurants advertise the convenience of Wi-Fi to their customers.
Whether the Wi-FI is free or fee-based, you need to be aware of the risks involved when using public Wi-Fi hotspots. Paying for network access is no safer than free Wi-Fi. Anyone else paying to use that network can potentially see what you are doing.
When you use a public network you need to remember it is public. That means that whatever you are doing on your computer is potentially visible to others. Others may be able to see what websites you are visiting, read your email, and see any passwords that you enter. However, there are some steps you can take to minimize the security risk.
Tips to Minimize Risks while on WiFi
1. Use a firewall. This can provide some extra protection.
2. Choose settings for a public network when you connect.
3. Turn off sharing.
4. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if possible.
5. Assume that what you are doing is visible to others.
6. Don’t use public Wi-Fi for banking or any financial transactions, including shopping.
7. If you must enter credit card information, make sure the web address for the site starts with “https”, indicating that it is a secure site.
8. Be careful about conducting business on a public Wi-Fi. Confidential information could be visible to others.
9. Disable the wireless feature if you are not using it.
10. Consider encrypting sensitive files on your laptop.
11. Consider that many web mail sites are not secure. Even if you are not reading your mail, your computer may automatically download it and potentially allow others to see it.
12. Make sure you are using a real hotspot. Cybercriminals have set up phony hotspots to steal information.
13. Change any passwords you used while on a public Wi-Fi once you are on a secure network.
Your best bet is to be overly cautious on any public Wi-Fi. Use it for casual web surfing, but don’t conduct business or financial transactions while on a public network.