How to Stay Safe on Public WiFi
Due to COVID-19, we are urged to stay at home. Which means working from home and relaxing at home. Both of which require WiFi. But there are still instances when we venture out of the house for essential errands. Wherever you are: grocery store, pharmacy, maybe even just out on a walk, there’s a public WiFi network surrounding you.
Most of our mobile devices are configured to automatically connect to the nearest WiFi network without us even knowing. Unless you have switched off that setting and are actively using cellular data, you are probably on a public network.
Using any public wireless internet is risky.
So, during the few moments you are outside of your home WiFi network, here are some things you can do to stay safe while on public WiFi:
Turn off your device’s auto-connect settings
Beware of auto-connection. Your phone may be defaulting to auto-connect. Which means that when you are close to an open WiFi network, your phone will automatically connect.
Other than draining your phone battery quickly, there is a bigger issue here. Your device can get hacked without you even knowing. Make sure you are aware of any network you connect to. Do this by turning off the auto-connect feature.
How to turn off auto-connect:
- Go to your phone settings
- Go to WiFi
- Disable the auto-join feature
Avoid accessing sensitive data
If you are on public WiFi, avoid accessing sensitive data. For example, checking your bank account balance or using your credit card to make an online purchase.
When you access sensitive data on public WiFi, you risk hackers getting into your accounts and stealing your information.
How to protect yourself:
Do the following to make sure your mobile device is protected on public WiFi:
- Make sure your device is encrypted. This will help protect your data from outsiders.
- Use strong, unique passwords. After you’ve used public WiFi, change your password to a new strong one.
- Turn off sharing functions. This way, unwanted guests won’t be able to share items with you that could compromise your device. This will also block another channel for hackers to use to get to you.
Make sure the network is secured
Free WiFi is not secure. Most public WiFi networks that you come across seem attractive because they are “free” to connect to. But the price of connecting to these non-secured networks is risking your privacy.
Make sure you only connect to a secure WiFi network.
How to know it’s a secure network:
If you own the network and live on your own, your home network is probably safe to connect to. Especially if you have protected it.
A public WiFi network is “safe” to connect to if it requires a password and if you are using a VPN.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN lets you securely connect to another network. VPNs help shield you from outside eyes on public WiFi by encrypting your data over the internet. If you are using the internet in public, you need a VPN.
How to setup a VPN:
Set up is easier than you might think.
- Go to your device settings.
- Find the WiFi or wireless networks settings.
- Tap on VPN.
- Add in the information that it asks for. If you don’t know the information, contact your internet service provider or network administrator.
Run anti-virus software on your device
Running anti-virus software on your device can help keep your device protected again malware attacks. Which are common on unprotected WiFi.
You can also protect your device by making sure to regularly update it. Updates with patches and bug-fixes roll out for a reason, so make sure you are protected.
How to setup anti-virus software:
Install a reputable anti-virus software onto your device. Also, perform regular device updates.
Avoid using your device in public
Avoiding using your device in public might be extreme. But the only way to keep completely safe from public WiFi is to completely avoid it.
While you are standing in line to check out, be mindful of using your device. Pay attention when connecting to public WiFi. You might be mindlessly scrolling through social media. Or feel innocent enough checking your bank account balance. All the while, someone could be using the public network to hack into your device and sensitive information.
If you have an unlimited data, it would be appropriate to use your data before connecting to public W-Fi.
But if you don’t have unlimited data, and you are going to use public WiFi, make sure to follow the tips above to protect yourself from harm.