Public wireless internet poses a threat to your online activity. Unlike home internet where encryption and passwords keep threats at bay, your every move made using public Wi-Fi is accessible to strangers because privacy and security are not primary concerns. Hackers easily steal usernames, passwords, email addresses, physical address, credit card information, and more. However, public Wi-Fi provides convenience, so the looming threats will not steer most away from using it. Therefore, be proactive about public wireless internet dangers.
Disable Automatic Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Connection
Outside home Wi-Fi, laptops, cell phones, and tablets scan for public networks and Bluetooth devices and connect automatically. Turn off automatic Wi-Fi when not in use so it doesn’t transmit data to the wrong people. Cybercriminals use public Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to create a phony, yet legitimate-sounding wireless connection as bait to lure unsuspecting users to their network where they control the narrative. From there, hackers can bombard your wireless device with Trojan horse viruses, spyware, and malware to steal data and hijack your device. Hackers will also steal data through phishing sites. Avoid the hassle and turn off automatic Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection. Only connect to public Wi-Fi manually.
Activate Two-Step Authentication
Alternatively named ‘two-step verification’ and ‘two-factor authentication,’ two-step authentication is an extra step to confirm the person accessing the account is the rightful owner. Email accounts, social media sites, and banking sites have two-step authentication options. With two-step authentication, cybercriminals can’t enter those sites with only a username and password. Cybercriminals need a second piece of info to enter as well. That info could be a temporary numeric or alphanumeric password sent to your email or phone. It could be a QR code. It could be two or three questions and answers to do. Regardless, it’s an extra step to guard your information from unwanted intruders. Activate two-step authentication on all accounts before connecting to public wireless internet.
Turn off Sharing
Disable file sharing, printer sharing, or any other public sharing options before connecting to public Wi-Fi. You don’t want sensitive information to end up with cybercriminals. Turn off sharing options under system preferences or control panel > network and internet. Turn sharing back on when you’re using home Wi-Fi or work Wi-Fi. Turn off sharing on tablets and mobile devices too.
Use a VPN
Sensitive tasks like banking or online shopping require extra precautions. Besides opening a private or incognito page within your browser, use a VPN service. A VPN, or virtual private network, is a barrier that encrypts data transfer and sends information through a VPN server to stop cybercriminals from seeing or stealing your data. Most cybercriminals prefer easy targets over decrypting VPN barriers, so most won’t target VPN users. Install a VPN on your laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. A VPN is also a good idea if you rely more on public Wi-Fi than home and work Wi-Fi.
Enable Up-to-Date Security Software
Criminals attempting to steal data or install a virus should not have a seamless time doing it. Laptop, tablets, and mobile phones using public Wi-Fi need antivirus software enabled in real-time and up-to-date. Laptops need anti-spyware, anti-malware, and a firewall installed, up-to-date, and enabled too. When cyber threats strike, the security system is the first line of defense. There is excellent paid and free anti-malware, anti-spyware, firewall, and anti-virus software for laptops, phones, and tablets, so there’s no excuse to not have security software installed.
There may be a time where public wireless internet is the only way to complete online tasks. If so, connect only to Wi-Fi hotspots with the business/company name listed. Then, verify the wireless hotspot name with an employee. Furthermore, the solutions in this article offer barriers to guard yourself and your data against hackers who aim to use your information for their benefit.