Do you get excited when you see the words “Free WiFi”? Sure, everyone likes FREE, right? But have you given thought to any hidden, and possibly dangerous cost?
Is public WiFi free? YES
Is public WiFi safe? NO
Despite numerous warnings, headlines, and efforts to educate, many people still don’t understand why connecting to free WiFi is an incredibly dangerous situation regardless of what you’re doing online.
However, Can you have your cake and eat it too???
To the Point: Nord VPN provides online privacy and security, in addition to media content access with no regional restrictions. It delivers the protection you need to “Have your Free WiFi, and Safely use it too!”
Public Wi-Fi 101
Today, free public WiFi is widely and readily available in most cities— hotel rooms, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, public transport, and airports. And who does’t like FREE, right?
Of course, jumping on a free Internet connection can be a convenient way to access online accounts, catch up on work, and check emails when on the go, all while saving on our cellular data plans.
However, data sent through public WiFi can easily be intercepted. The average free public WiFi isn’t secure, and just because you may need a password to log in, it doesn’t mean your online activities are encrypted.
With cyber criminals having the ability to position themselves between you and the connection point, many mobile device and laptop users risk the security of both their personal and work-related information. So instead of talking directly with the free access point, you end up sending your information to the hacker. The hacker then has access to every piece of information you send out—emails, phone numbers, credit card information, business data, the list goes on.
And while you may think ‘okay, I’m not checking my personal/business email or logging into my bank account, I’m just checking the weather,’ remember anything you do on a public WiFi network is NOT secure. Any information you share or access on these networks is susceptible to theft.
Precautions you can take to stay protected on public WiFi
Use a VPN
A VPN allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public WiFi, your ISP(internet service provider), and more.
They are an excellent alternative to public WiFi networks. While they do cost some money, the peace of mind and additional security is well worth it.
Additionally, most employers will equip their employees with a way to connect to a VPN network on the go. And, they should. While employees are on the go and need to access WiFi networks to do their jobs, the company’s data is at a high-risk if they use a public network.
If you’re not using a VPN, Don’t use any of your personally identifiable information (PII)
Would you stand in a room full of criminals, and start shouting out your SS#, full name, birthday, address, Facebook login credentials, banking information, and email passwords????
I didn’t think so, but that is exactly what you’re doing when you use a public WiFi network. Therefore, if you must use a public WiFi network without VPN protection, avoid touching any personally identifiable information, including banking information, social security numbers, and home address.
In addition, some accounts require you to enter things like phone numbers when signing up, so even though you may not remember entering it, you may unintentionally be allowing access to personal information.
If you don’t have access to a VPN, you can still add a layer of encryption to your connection. When browsing the internet, be sure to enable the “Always Use HTTPS” option on websites.
Only browse websites that start with HTTPS and avoid websites that start with HTTP while on public WiFi, especially any and all sites that require you to enter any type of credentials (most websites that require an account or credentials have the “HTTPS” option somewhere in their settings).
You should also consider installing an extension like HTTPS-Everywhere to force all websites you visit to connect using HTTPS.
Check Your Wireless Settings
Configure the wireless settings on your devices to not automatically connect to available Wi-Fi hotspots. This ensures that you do not unknowingly connect to public networks.
You can do this by turning off the “Connect Automatically” feature on your computers so they don’t auto-connect and search for known WiFi networks.
Doing this will prevent your computer from broadcasting to the world that it’s trying to connect to “XYZ WiFi” network and allow an attacker to spoof it.
Public Wi-Fi isn’t always safe. Without the right protection, your personal information could become public. Protect yourself with a secure VPN. It encrypts the personal information you send and receive on public Wi-Fi to help keep it private wherever you want to log on.
Protect all your devices
Do you use Windows at work, macOS at home, and Linux for your special projects? No problem. There’s a NordVPN application for each of these, plus apps for iOS, Android, and Android TV. Oh, and also encrypted proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Best of all, with one NordVPN account, you can secure up to 6 devices at the same time.