How to Protect Yourself on Public WiFi

How to Protect Yourself on Public WiFi

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Connecting to a public WiFi network is always a risk if you don’t take measures to protect your devices. Regardless of where you’re going online, access to WiFi is nearly infinite at this point, but that kind of access may or may not come with unintended consequences.

Public networks, in other words, usually offer poor security. That means it’s easier for hackers to access your personal data and deploy malware attacks. We can ensure that you will be much safer when connected to public WiFi with our tips.

Depending on your occupation or the type of sensitive information you store on your devices, we don’t recommend accessing public WiFi without a secure VPN. Still, there are other measures you can take to make the chance of your device staying safe much higher.

Protect your sensitive information on any WiFi network with NordVPN.

Harms of Public Networks

While it may seem counterintuitive, public WiFi is actually in no way secure — and a password login doesn’t necessarily add an extra layer of security. There are plenty of hackers who love public WiFi just as much as you do, posing a risk for identity theft or even money theft. 

Cybercriminals know how to access anything from banking information to email logins and personal files. You might even run into malware attacks, which can be carried out in the following ways:

Man in the Middle (MITM)

As we mentioned, public WiFi is usually unencrypted and unsecured. This makes it possible for hackers to intercept and monitor the traffic between your device and the websites you’re browsing on – otherwise known as “man in the middle” attacks.

Fake WiFi Hotspots (Evil Twin)

Hackers may be on a public network or a fake WiFi hotspot with an inconspicuous network name. The network name, in other words, is similar to one you’d see in a cafe or airport. This allows hackers to monitor your data while you’re connected to their fake network. Be sure to check with an employee to ensure you’re accessing the correct network associated with their place of business.

WiFi Sniffing

There is legal software that hackers can use to monitor and log all data packets, like your browsing information. Your online activity is usually unencrypted when you connect to a public network, making it easier for hackers to see the data you transfer between your device and the public network.  

Tips to Keep Your Devices Safe

Connecting to WiFi is often a mindless, or even automatic, process. Regardless of how a hacker may want to connect to your device, they intend to access your personal information. Hackers can even input malware on your device by sending fake push notifications about updating software on your computer. Take a look at our top 3 tips to protect your devices from this below.

graphic of different IoT devices
1

Cover your bases

If you’re in a situation where you have to use a public WiFi network, which is probably often, avoid using websites that need personal data such as bank accounts, your social security number, or where you live. It’s crucial not to make any significant financial transactions on public WiFi.

You should always verify the network you’re connecting to first. Most public places have an official login page. Think of a time you were at a Starbucks or the airport. These logins will prompt you to enter your email or accept the terms of the public network. If none of the above pops up on your screen, you might be in trouble.  

2

Turn on your firewall

There is no reason for you to have your sharing preferences turned on while connected to a public network. Once you verify the network you’re connecting to, turn off your file sharing option before getting immersed in whatever you will be working on.

All you need to do is go to your system preferences or control panel, depending on your operating system. Whether you own a PC or a Mac, you will want to access your control panel or system preferences to turn on your firewall. Firewalls protect your devices from any malware-related threats. It will also secure your data from any potential attacks from hackers.

3

Use a reliable VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) will encrypt your IP address, so you can maintain privacy while surfing the web. Installing a reliable VPN, like NordVPN, is by far one of the best measures you can take to stay secure while connected to a public network. The data processed on a VPN won’t be visible to hackers, meaning they won’t be able to see your personal information or browsing habits.

We highly recommend choosing a provider that offers the OpenVPN protocol because it’s widely accepted as the one with the strongest encryption. In addition, it’s crucial to select a VPN with a no-logs policy and a kill switch. You may even want to look for additional features like a Double VPN or Obfuscated servers for an extra layer of security.

The only caveat is that not all VPNs are created equal. Some are free services, and some are not, while others specialize in movies versus music or software. Premium VPNs, however, are often inexpensive, trustworthy, and give you an extra layer of security.

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