Tips for Safe Use of Public Wi-Fi
Jackie here. I love public Wi-Fi. It’s nice being able to connect to the internet on the go without having to worry about how many bytes I have left on my data plan. Businesses are starting to take note, and free Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up everywhere from the local coffee shop to the library, and even at parks around the country. But, this convenience does come with some risk. How do you keep yourself and your identity safe when using public Wi-Fi? Here are a few tips:
- Choose Secure Hotspots When Possible– Secure Wi-Fi hotspots are your safest choice when sending sensitive information. Look for hotspots that use WPA encryption and require a password to log-in. If you aren’t using a secure hotspot, know that your information may be at risk and be selective about the sites you visit and the information you share. Watching a video on YouTube will put you at less of a risk for id theft than logging into your bank account over an unsecured connection.
If you aren’t using a secure hotspot:
- Choose Https Over Http– There is an easy way to tell if you are using a secure website. Look up at the web address and see if it begins with http or https. That little ‘s’ tacked onto the end means extra security for you. On many sensitive sites like Facebook and Gmail, you can choose to always have an https connection by changing your security settings. If you’re using public Wi-Fi, https is always the safest choice for sending sensitive information or logging into sites that contain your info.
- Get a One Time Log-In– Some accounts may offer a one-time password if you’re worried about security. For Facebook send ‘otp’ in a text message to 32665 from a mobile number linked to your account (you may be charged, depending on your plan). This service may be available for some of your other accounts; contact the company and ask if it’s available.
- Log Out of Accounts– When you finish using an account, log out. Staying logged into accounts when using unsecured Wi-Fi could potentially allow hackers or id thieves to access the information inside. An easy solution: stop using automatic log-ins and log yourself in and out each time you need to access an account.
- Consider a VPN– A VPN, or a virtual private network, turns an unsecured internet connection into your own private oasis. It automatically encrypts information coming in and out of your computer, providing you with identity theft protection even when you aren’t using a secure W-Fi- hotspot. A VPN is a great choice for those that regularly connect online using Wi-Fi.
- Stay Updated– Malware, viruses, and other dangers to your computer can be waiting for an unsuspecting Wi-Fi user so they can attack. Anti-virus software and the latest updates on your computer and firewall are essential. Before using an unknown Wi-Fi connection make sure your computer is up to date and if you’re prompted to install an update over a Wi-Fi connection, make sure you trust the source
Wi-Fi certainly is convenient and if you’re careful, can be a safe way to connect and share when you are on the go. Just remember the risks and be aware that the things you access might be visible to hackers and identity thieves.
For more information check out this article from the FTC; the accompanying video has some especially great tips.