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How to keep your data secure on public WiFi networks?

Here, we’ll discuss the ways to keep your data safe on public WiFi.

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Image: Raconteur

Public WiFi has become so widely available that most people don’t think twice before connecting to these networks. Sometimes you have no other option. Take, for instance, when you have some urgent work to take care of while away from office or home.

Other times it helps you save some cash. For example, when you have a limited mobile data plan and want to stay connected without paying anything extra. Public WiFi undoubtedly has its advantages – it’s a free and convenient way to enjoy Internet connectivity on the go.

However, public WiFi also has its disadvantages from a security point of view. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the public WiFi threats you’re most likely to encounter, and how you can keep your personal data protected from cybercriminals.

4 Common Public WiFi Threats

The thing about most public WiFi networks is that they’re usually unencrypted. The lack of security measures is alarming and makes it easier than ever for anyone to snoop on your browsing sessions and get away with your information.

Even if you’re only visiting HTTPS websites, they might not be able to tell what you’re up to but they can still see the sites you’re accessing. The following are some common ways through which cybercriminals can leverage public WiFi networks to get their hands on your data:

Rogue Access Points

A bad guy can set up a rogue WiFi access point to mimic a legitimate hotspot provided by a nearby business, such as a coffee shop or restaurant. They get unsuspecting users to connect and then keep an eye on their online activities, capturing any personal information in the process and using it to engage in illegal activities like identity theft and fraud.

Malware Infections

Information-stealing malware is another big security concern when it comes to using public WiFi networks. Cybercriminals can easily infect your computer or device with malware if your file sharing is enabled. This allows them to gain access to sensitive information like your photos, and sometimes even your microphone and camera so that they can eavesdrop you offline as well.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

MITM attacks typically consist of a perpetrator standing in between two parties, and in this case, it’s your device and the public WiFi network. Since the traffic you send goes through the hacker and then onto the network, they can view all the data you have transmitted while connected, including passwords, credit card information, and emails.

Sniffing Attempts

Cyber thieves can use monitoring software like packet sniffers and even devices like WiFi pineapples to eavesdrop on your WiFi signals. As such, they’re not only able to observe the webpages you’re visiting and any information you might have filled out there, but also can intercept your usernames and passwords, as well as hijack your online accounts.

5 Ways to Safe on Public WiFi

Public WiFi networks are hot targets for hackers because they’re usually easy to compromise. Also, many people use them so they never really run out of targets. By taking the right measures, however, you can keep your personal data safe while using public WiFi networks:

Use a VPN

Employing yourself with a WiFi VPN like PureVPN is a must when using unsecured connections, such as public WiFi hotspots. It secures all your Internet traffic from end-to-end using military-grade encryption, making it close to impossible for hackers to intercept and view your data. Even if they somehow manage to, all of it would be gibberish.

Moreover, it also provides a cloak of anonymity online as it masks your original IP address with one from the VPN server you’re connected to. As a result, anyone spying on you will be able to see that you’re tunneling your Internet traffic through a VPN, but they won’t be able to see your online activities. Pretty neat, right?

Install HTTPS Everywhere

When browsing on public WiFi networks, it’s imperative that you only visit HTTPS websites as they ensure the communications between you and the site are encrypted. To be on the safe side, we’d recommend installing the HTTPS Everywhere extension on your browser.

After all, it forces unsecure sites to let you connect with them using SSL (Secure Socket Layer), TLS (Transport Layer Security), or HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure). An additional layer of encryption will go a long way in keeping your data secure!

Turn Off File-Sharing

If you’re using the Internet in a public space, it’s very unlikely that you’d want to share files with anybody. As mentioned earlier on, leaving file sharing enabled can be a costly mistake as it gives hackers easy access to your computer or device.

That’s why it makes sense to turn off file sharing – especially when you want to use a public WiFi network – and the steps of doing so will differ depending on the operating system you’re using. In Windows, for example, you’ll have to visit the Control Panel.

Protect Your Device

Another way to protect your information on public WiFi networks is to ensure that your device has top-notch protection. You should install a strong anti-virus or anti-malware program to prevent malicious files from being installed onto your system. Additionally, make it practice to update your security software up to date as soon as patches are available.

Limit Your Browsing Activities

The easiest method to keep your data out of the wrong hands on public WiFi is to limit the type of browsing you indulge in. Never enter credit card information or access your bank account over unsecured networks unless you’re connected to a VPN. Furthermore, be wary when you’re entering credentials on any site.

Final Word

Public WiFi has indeed made our lives easier, but its use doesn’t come without concerns. If you travel a lot or work on your laptop on the go, you can’t make do without public WiFi! By following the precautions mentioned above though, you can improve your public WiFi security and browse the Internet without the fear of your data getting compromised.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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