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Top 6 Tips for Public WiFi Hotspot Security

Top 6 Tips for Public WiFi Hotspot Security

When you’re traveling or vacation, how often do you go online using an unprotected Wi-Fi internet connection?

Leading privacy advocate ProPrivacy surveyed more than 1,000 vacationers to assess their online habits when traveling.  96 percent of those surveyed report connecting to public Wi-Fi in hotels and cafes.  More than 75 percent admit they are using unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots which do not ask for passwords.  These open networks can be dangerous.  People with malicious intent can easily intercept and read unencrypted traffic.

You can, however, take a few simple precautions to protect yourself.

Protect Yourself On Public Wi-Fi
One of the most common tricks hacker use is to hang out in places with public Wi-Fi and try to trick you into logging into a look-alike network.  You might call up the list of available Wi-Fi hotspots and see several with similar names.  Connecting to the wrong one might allow the bad guys to have direct access to your data.  You need to make sure you are picking the correct one and not just the one with the strongest signal.

Use Private Wi-Fi Networks
If possible, connect to a hotspot with the lock-shaped icon and enter the password.  Usually these are wifi networks that are set up by individuals or by restaurants or local businesses.  The lock icon indicates a secure network and the password works as a deterrent to hackers who may want to access the system.  If it any time a security warning pops while you’re trying to connect, your operating system is likely telling you something may be a problem.  Pay attention to the warning and get off the wi-fi.

Are VPNS safe? Regardless of how you connect to the internet, one of the best defenses you can have is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).  By installing a VPN app on your device, you create a private link between your device and the VPN.  This masks your presence online.  Even if someone is snooping to see who’s on a public Wi-Fi network, all they will see is the IP address for the VPN host and not yours.  It will also encrypt all your activity making it nearly impossible for snoops.

Make sure you use a VPN app that does not log your activity and also uses military-grade AES 256-bit encryption.  That’s the same level of security used by the NSA (National Security Agency).

Use Your Own Hotspot
Instead of using a public Wi-Fi connection, consider using your cell phone or another internet-enabled device as a password-protected hotspot.  Here’s how you do it on various operating systems:

1. iOS devices:  Settings > Wi-Fi > Personal Hotspot
2. macOS:  Menu > System Preference > Sharing
3. Android devices:  Quick Settings
4. Windows 10:  Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile Hotspots

Before enabling a hotspot on your device, you will want to check with your carrier to make sure you aren’t triggering additional charges.
Another option is to use a portable hotspot.

Disable Sharing
When you hop on a public wifi to print files, connect to a second screen or other activity, you may also need to allow some sharing services.  If left unwatched, opening sharing options or connecting to the wrong device can open your device up to hackers.  Make sure your operating system is set up to disallow sharing of files without your permission. In Windows 10 you will see this option under Settings > Network and Internet > Wi-Fi > Change Advance Sharing Options.  On a printer is may be as easy as selecting “turn off file and printer sharing.”  Keeping sharing setting to open could potentially give others access to your files even without your knowledge.

Stay On Top Of Updates
While OS updates may be annoying and take time, they can help protect your devices from the latest hackers.  Before you travel, make sure you are using the current version of your operating system and browsers. Additionally, double check your apps are to date on mobile devices and tablets. Hackers exploit known flaws in software and most companies regularly put out updates to patch these flaws. Make sure you have the latest version of software and apps before you get on public wi-fi.

Stay Safe Online
Public wi-fis may be a necessary to stay in touch or get work done while on the go.  Following these simple tips can help keep you safe online.  Before you jump on public Wi-Fi, make sure you take proactive steps to protect yourself.