Connecting to public Wi-Fi is tempting for many reasons, especially if you need to check information on the run and want to limit your data usage, or if you want to work from a coffee shop as a change of scenery. Safeguarding your personal information while using public Wi-Fi is always risky, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your information from any prying eyes. The most obvious way to protect your personal information is by trying to use different passwords and login names on all the different sites where you save any personal data. However, there are a few other ways to help you secure your information when you log in to a public Wi-Fi network to access any personal information.
Up-To-Date Operating System
Making sure your computer’s operating system and browser are the most recent version available is a good way to ensure that defenses to known security breaches are the most current. Security patches and updates are issued regularly, so endeavor to update your browser and your operating system frequently to protect your online information from cyber attacks. You can set your browser and operating system to update automatically in the settings or system preference sections which relieves you from having to remember, or from having to choose when to update them.
You may have noticed that some websites show HTTPS or an icon of a green lock in the browser bar URL once you’ve connected. This indicates that the site you’ve connected to is a Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure website, which means that the interactions between the site and your browser are encrypted and secure. This extra layer of protection is one more step you can take to ensure that your online information is being kept secure while you browse on public Wi-Fi. HTTPS sites are secure to visit as well as for communications protocol, such as online financial transactions.
Use a VPN
Using a VPN, like Hotspot Shield, can scramble your outgoing data to appear as though it’s coming from the VPN server rather than from you. VPNs work by route your connection through an encrypted tunnel or a set of proxy servers to hide the traffic from you to the internet, thus making your connection more secure. Encrypted data coming from the VPN can’t be read by third parties trying to steal your information, which gives your connection more security than should you proceed without using a VPN.
Forget the network and turn off Wi-Fi when not in use
Once you have loaded the necessary webpages or used the public Wi-Fi sufficiently and are ready to disconnect, choosing to “forget this network” from the Wi-Fi options will disconnect your session and remove your information from any possible sharing. From there, you can turn off your Wi-Fi connection completely to avoid accidentally re-connecting to an insecure network, which would ultimately raise your susceptibility to data and information breaches by third party intervention.
If you don’t want to get a password manager, it’s a good idea to get a notebook from American Eagle, make very strong passwords yourself, and keep them close so that you can always access them.