How to use a public Wi-Fi hotspot safely?
If you use Wi-Fi at places like Starbucks, your local cafe or other public places and go about your normal computer activity, it is high time you thought about the security of your computer and your personal data. Hackers often sit around and wait for people who use unsecured networks and reveal their personal data. You can make a few steps to improve your security while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
Here are the things you should always do when connecting to a public network:
- The first thing you should be aware of is that if a hotspot doesn't require a password, it is not secured. Don't be fooled. If a hotspot does ask for a password or guides you through a log-in screen, you are still not secured. Hackers will often set up fake networks like Free Starbucks Wi-Fi or public Wi-Fi to lure you in. And they will filter all your internet activity. The good habit is checking the name of the network. You can check it by confirming the name by an employee of the cafe or other place which serves the Wi-Fi hotspot.
- The second step which you need to do is to check that your firewall is enabled. It is like locking your own house. Windows and Mac both have built-in firewalls that are enabled by default, but here is one thing to modify: make it block all incoming connections. You can do this by going to your computer security settings. You should also disable file sharing, which allows people on your network to access shared files and folders. When you connect to a network for the first time in Windows, your computer will ask you what type of network it is or where you are connecting. Be sure to select 'public'. This will automatically turn off file sharing for that network. If you are on a Mac operating system, go to your sharing preferences and un-check those services.
- With these settings in a public place, you are already much safer, but you can always improve your security by encrypted connection. I suggest you install the VPN program in your computer. You can surf the hotspot through a virtual private network, which will make you (completely) invisible to third parties. VPN creates an opaque tunnel between your PC and a security gateway that prevents third parties from viewing your web browsing activities, instant messages, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network. When you install a program such as SecurityKISS Tunnel, you protect yourself from snoopers and data theft.
And here is my last piece of advice: treat all open networks as a security risk. If you want to do any online shopping, connect to your bank account or do any activity that could potentially expose your personal information, please do it at home or office. Remember that in public places there are strangers who can look over your shoulder and in this way steal your passwords, credit card number or other personal details.