These days, you need an internet connection to do just about anything. Accessing the internet is simple enough when you’re at home, but things can get a bit trickier when you’re in public. If you want to uncover the dangers of public Wi-Fi networks and keep your data safe, then take a look at this quick rundown of public Wi-Fi networks and how to protect yourself online.
What are the Risks of Using Public Wi-Fi?
In 2019, over 2 million complaints of attempted fraud or identity theft in the United States, and many of these attempts were digital. When you use a public Wi-Fi network, it’s much easier for strangers to find a backdoor into your system. From there, they can install malware, store illicit materials on your computer for torrenting purposes, and much worse. There’s a good chance that you use your computer to log into personal banking, and there may be many important passwords saved in your browsers.
Keyloggers and other malware can easily track your website traffic and even figure out your passwords. If your important passwords are uncovered, then a cyber-criminal can wreak untold havoc on your finances, employment, and personal life. Social media accounts can be hijacked, and you could find yourself in a lot of trouble if someone impersonates you to commit a crime online. Furthermore, many online services require a social security number, and you certainly don’t want anyone to have access to that.
Even if the café, hotel, or other public Wi-Fi connection doesn’t have a large crowd, that doesn’t mean that you’re safe. Rogue staff members could be peeking at your data, and some cyber-criminals are even smart enough to automate illicit data collection processes so that they can gain a passive stream of information at any time. You’ve worked hard for everything you have, but a public Wi-Fi network can ruin it all. Naturally, you want to protect yourself, so check out these major ways to avoid public Wi-Fi networks.
Traveling? Download Maps or Use a GPS
Often, people get lost on their journey, so they stop by a local coffee shop or mall to connect to their network and bring up a map. Unfortunately, spending even a minute on a public Wi-Fi network can open you up to danger. To get to your destination without risking your device’s security, you should download a map beforehand or use a GPS. Most phone-based map apps can download a map on your private network and track your progress from there without an internet connection.
Plan Ahead or Wait
Whether you’re expecting an important email or need to log into a certain service, you’ll need an internet connection. While you can’t always anticipate the need for Wi-Fi, there are many times when you can plan for it. If you think that you’re going to need to use the internet at a certain time, then schedule your day to increase the likelihood that you’re at home when you need to access the internet. If the matter doesn’t need your immediate attention, then just wait until you get home to log in and check it out.
Get a Reliable Data Plan
Many cellular data plans offer high-speed internet almost anywhere. If you think that you’ll be using the internet on the go, then you should opt for a plan with a lot of data and broad coverage. Even if you need to pay a little more per month, keeping your data safe is worth the extra expense.
Keep a Backup Device
An old phone or laptop is a great way to access a public Wi-Fi network without putting your current device at risk. Just make sure that you wipe it clean and clear it of all personal data. Furthermore, you still shouldn’t log in to online banking or any other accounts on these devices; just use them for directions or quick internet searches.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network is a great way to browse on public Wi-Fi and keep your data safe. Ideally, you should avoid public Wi-Fi altogether, but that might not always be feasible. A VPN can protect your device by encrypting your data and making it hard for hackers to find a way inside.