How To Avoid Public Wi-Fi Security Risks

December 20, 2016

People who use public connections may be compromised by hackers but there are several safeguards available to keep from becoming a victim. The recent availability of free Wi-Fi has been a great benefit for businesses and consumers alike, and there are free connections in almost any hotel, restaurant or coffee shop. Since no authentication is required to establish a connection, hackers have an easier time stealing data. Hackers position themselves between a person with an unsecured device and the connection point, which means that the phone's information is sent to the hacker instead of the hotspot. Emails, search requests and credit card information may be sent. With this information, a hacker may be able to access some of the person's information easily.

Many hackers also use unsecured connections to send out malware. For those who allow file sharing, it is easy to be infected. Some hackers can target the connection point, which creates a popup window while the computer is connecting. It offers a free upgrade for a certain type of program that most people use, and clicking on the fake offer automatically installs the malware. As public Wi-Fi becomes more common, expect to see hackers step up their game too. Security issues increase but this does not mean that people should not use any free connections. It is simply a reminder of the available safeguards and the importance of using them. 

Always use a VPN. A virtual private network serves as a buffer between the Wi-Fi connection and the mobile device or computer. Any transmitted data is then encrypted and becomes too much work for the hacker to attempt to figure out. Use a trusted and reputable VPN provider. While some providers charge a fee of around $10 or more for monthly service, some are free.

Use SSL connections. Although most people are not as prone to use a VPN, they can easily add encryption to communications by enabling the "always use HTTPS" feature on a computer or mobile device. This ensures a secure connection to sites, and it is vital for any site where financial credentials are entered.

Turn off automatic Wi-Fi when it is not in use. When a phone is not connected to Wi-Fi, an automatic search will still transmit some data while looking for available networks. To stay safe, disable Wi-Fi after finishing.

Turn off sharing capabilities. Access the control panel on a device to do this. Allowing sharing will give people who have the ability to use it access to information and data on the device.

Issues may still arise even with the best safeguards in place. Taking the abovementioned precautions will help reduce the likelihood or frequency of security breaches. Be vigilant. Learn more about staying safe online in public places.

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