As convenient as it is, it is important to consider public Wi-Fi security risks before you join a network. These networks aren’t always as secure as your home network and could leave you exposed to cyber threats. You don’t have to avoid public Wi-Fi completely, but you should take steps to minimize the risks and protect your online security when out and about.
Why Public Wi-Fi Can Be Dangerous
Free hotspots are tempting for those wanting to use their laptops during lunch or avoid data overage charges on their phones. One of the biggest public Wi-Fi security risks is you never know if the network is legitimate or not. Even if the network is legitimate, hackers could still be lurking since most public hot spots aren’t secured.
Both scenarios represent a chance for hackers to steal personal information or make purchases on a user’s mobile device. Some fake networks even steal credit card information by asking for a small fee to use the Wi-Fi.
4 Common Public Wi-Fi Security Risks to Avoid
Risk #1: Un-encrypted Networks
The most common risk is using an un-encrypted network. To make it easy for everyone to connect, encryption isn’t used, which makes all data transmitted vulnerable to any hackers.
The best solution to avoid public Wi-Fi security risks like these is to use a VPN. This type of software allows you to create your own secure, virtual private network. It’s an extra step, but it does keep your data safer.
Risk #2: Using Wrong Network Type
Setting a public Wi-Fi hotspot to Home or Work as the network type is a common, yet dangerous problem. These types allow file sharing with other devices on the network. This means others on the network could easily access your computer and steal documents, photos, videos, and more.
Avoid this risk by setting public connections to Public. This turns off all file sharing on the network.
Risk #3: Entering Personal Information
While you have a free minute, you might do some online shopping or pay a few bills. Don’t. Public Wi-Fi security risks are too great for you to enter credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, or other personal details. Remember, you don’t know who is on the network or who might be trying to snoop.
Risk #4: Shoulder Surfing
One of the most overlooked public Wi-Fi security risks is old fashioned shoulder surfing. No matter how secure your device is or even the network, dozens of strangers could be looking over your shoulder at any time. Stay aware of who is around you and don’t type anything private unless you’re certain no one is watching.
Takeaway Tips for Public Wi-Fi Safety:
You don’t have to give up on public Wi-Fi. Instead, use these tips to stay safer:
- Ask for the network name from the business to avoid scam networks
- Keep your antivirus programs up to date and running
- Use VPN software or apps
- Avoid logging into personal websites, such as banking or social networks
The best way to navigate public Wi-Fi is to be aware of the risks and follow the tips outlined here. You’ll stay safer and still enjoy the free Wi-Fi.
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Related Read: Do You Need a VPN Service?