No public Wi-Fi network is entirely safe. While using a public network, you run the risk of your device getting infected with viruses and malware. In more extreme cases, your personal information can get hacked and stolen.
That being said, various measures can be taken to ensure that your device and privacy is protected:
Check your device first
Whether you’re using a laptop, tablet, or phone, keeping your device updated regularly is crucial to strengthening its security. Most updates include new security features to combat the latest virus or phishing scam. If you’re using a PC, it’s also important to make sure that you have an antivirus program installed, and to regular perform scans on your device both before and after using a public network. Regularly updating your web browser also helps ensure that the browser can also do its part in protecting your device from untrusted websites that can contain viruses and malware.
Check the network first
The business or institution that’s providing the Wi-Fi is partly responsible. Look into the measures they take to ensure your safety. Is it password protected or open? Are there multiple other networks with similar names? Is it from a paid service or a free hotspot? All of these factors can tell you a lot about the network’s integrity.
Consider your browsing habits
When you’re using public Wi-Fi, the information you access can also be accessed by the individuals who pay for the network as well as their provider. Public networks also make it much easier for hackers to access your information. It’s important to keep your private information safe, and the best step to eliminate the risk of it falling into the wrong hands is, if possible, avoid accessing it while you’re using a public network. It’s also a good idea to be aware of which websites are appropriate to access based on which environment you’re in, in order to avoid embarrassing moments.
Look for alternatives
If you still feel uncomfortable using a business’s public Wi-Fi, there are plenty of other ways to access the web. If you’re using a laptop or tablet, consider creating a hotspot from your cell phone. A hotspot is a feature that creates a private network from your mobile phone service. Nowadays, most cell phone plans offer a feature that lets you create your own hotspot. Using hotspots gives you the benefit of using your own private Wi-Fi network that you can access anywhere that has phone service. Another useful option is to consider getting a VPN, or virtual private network. A VPN encrypts your information and data, meaning that even while using public Wi-Fi, your data is protected from potential hackers, and your web traffic and IP address can even be hidden from internet providers and advertisers.
Backup, backup, backup!
Whether or not you’re concerned about using public Wi-Fi, it’s always a good idea to backup your devices regularly. Whether it’s from malicious malware or an error on your part, losing files and data is a major source of stress that can lead to personal and professional woes. Invest in an external hard drive and set up your devices so that they can backup automatically on a regular basis. Taking these steps ensures that even if the worst possible scenario occurs, you can still restore your data and not miss a beat.