Connected to free wifi hotspot? 5 Tips to stay safe in public

free wifi hotspot

Threats of free wifi hotspot

A free wifi hotspot is an effortless way to surf for information on someone else’s dime. Today, public wifi hotspot is available nearly everywhere you go, from airports to hotels to railway stations to out on the streets. While no one can argue on its convenience, the bigger question is how often we should use it as cybersecurity is the major concern.

Whenever you are connected to an open wifi network, your personal information is being exposed to hackers. They use special tools to scan the router for vulnerabilities and intercept your information such as bank account credentials, credit card numbers or private photos and videos. Over 50% of adults fall prey to hackers in US alone every year. Reports reveal 89% of such attacks involves financial motives.

Types of public wifi network

Free wifi seems like a windfall. There are basically two types of public Wi-Fi networks available out there viz. secured and unsecured. A secured network requires the user to register or type in a password to access the network. You may also have to pay a minimal fees before being able to get connected.

An unsecured network on the hand, can be connected to without a password or login id. However, regardless of the connection type or antivirus and firewalls installs, they are useless against hackers on public wifi networks.

5 tips to use public Wi-Fi with caution

  1. Choose your network wisely

    A statutory warning is to never use networks that says ‘Available free wi-fi here!’ or ‘Access free internet’. They are hotbed for hackers.

    Free Wi-Fi provided by coffee shops or retailers in the airport is far safer than free open networks available on the road. They offer added security and make keep your data safer.

  1. Open HTTPS and SSL connections only

    If you are accessing your email over an open network, you may as well want to make sure that they are SSL encrypted. If not, your usernames, passwords or other personal information is exposed out in the open.

    Also keep an eye on the address bar for ‘https’ while exchanging sensitive information. This is nonnegotiable when it comes to identity theft protection.

  2. Install a VPN and stay safe

    Installing a Virtual Private Network is probably the safest way to connect on a public wifi. VPN provides encryption of all data transferred to and from your personal system (mobile, PC, laptop).

    However, you need to pick a reliable VPN though, as its developers will be handling all your internet traffic. It can be a third-party VPN service provider or your own VPN at home that can be connected to while travelling.

  3. Turn off file sharing options

    Your system probably has some file sharing options turned on. Turning them off provide internet protection when connecting to unsecured wifi. It enables your system’s built-in firewalls.

    Apart from this, MAC users can also set AirDrop to contacts-only. Automate those settings so that your system automatically switches to the secure setup when connected to an open network.

  4. Avoid financial transactions

    Shopping involves use of sensitive data like bank account and retailer login credentials. Hence, shop only with those companies that offer password security.

    Online banking over a public Wi-Fi connection is a complete no-no. But if you have no other way out, make transactions using your bank’s official app only.

    Malicious hackers use free Wi-Fi hotspot to intercept the data that passes through a public router such as passwords, login details, browsing history, credit card data and email.

The more you connect with an unsecured network, the greater is the likelihood that your digital privacy will suffer from security breach. It never hurts to protect yourself way in advance from threats of potential damage. Falling prey to such attack is a question of when, not if. Be prepared!

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