Free public wifi networks are everywhere: coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, main streets, and even your local department store. They’re convenient to use, and let’s be honest: If you’ve got to work, sometimes it’s nice to do it in a coffee shop rather than the office.
But connecting your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to a public wifi network can be a security risk. How can you keep yourself safe? Here are a few simple tips.
Any device you connect to a public wifi network could be at risk, whether it’s your laptop, your tablet, or your smartphone. Therefore, any data you send over that network is also at risk.
Know your network.
Just because a network shows up in the list of available wifi connections doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Thieves trying to steal information will often name their network after a nearby business to trick you. Verify the name of the network and the IP address with the staff of the institution whose wifi you’d like to use. Only connect to known and recognized networks. Public networks that require a password are slightly safer than public networks that don’t, but you should be cautious either way.
Be careful what you send.
While you’re connected to an insecure public network, don’t send any personal data that someone would like to steal. Stay away from social networking, online banking, and any website that has stored your credit card number. Don’t shop online or enter your credit card number, bank account numbers, or social security number.
If you must do these things while you’re out and about, use your tablet or smartphone over the cellular network. Most cell providers encrypt information as it passes between the tower and your device. (What’s encryption? Read our blog post on encryption.)
Protect your devices with antivirus and antispyware software. Keep these types of software updated. Also, never turn off your firewall. Doing so can leave your computer unprotected.
You can go a long way to protect yourself by using strong passwords for all of your online accounts. Not sure how to create a strong password? Read our tips here.
And, when you’re not using the public wifi, disconnect your device from it.
Do you have more questions about Internet and wifi security? Contact us today!