Public Wi-Fi is convenient, and for those on a metered plan, it can save money if used often enough. The downside? Public Wi-Fi is an easy way for cyber criminals to penetrate your privacy and steal information from your files or plant malicious software on your devices. Cybercrime is very real, but there are ways to protect yourself from damaging attacks.
Make Sure Your HTTP Has an S
Cyber security is quickly becoming an issue for major providers of content. Google now gives preference to sites that take the time and buy the resources to provide secure web environments. The best way to ensure your information is protected is to look for HTTPS websites that will encrypt your information and are committed to offering security, especially when using public Wi-Fi.
Plan Ahead to Avoid Visiting Sensitive Sites
An easy way to protect your personal information from being stolen while using public Wi-Fi is to avoid visiting sites you don’t want penetrated while out and about. Public connection is great for passing the time surfing the web and reading about the latest in entertainment or the news, but it might not be an ideal opportunity to balance your checkbook or work on a proprietary project for work. Plan ahead and take care of sensitive tasks at home, where you control access to the environment.
Consider a VPN
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, encrypt traffic between you and the site you are visiting. Many VPNs offer free services, but most charge for plans which increase speed and bandwidth. Still, the added layer of security a VPN provides is well worth the expense for those concerned about cyber security.
Close Your Wi-Fi When Not in Use
Just as you lock your car after you park, Wi-Fi should never be left open when not in use. An unattended open Wi-Fi channel is an invitation to steal your information for anyone within range. Disabling Wi-Fi when not in use is a sure-fire way to eliminate the possibility of cybercrime on public networks. Don’t worry; you won’t miss anything important. As soon as you enable, every message received during the blackout will come rolling in automatically.
Password Management is Fundamental
By now everyone online should have a basic understanding of password management. Using the same password for all your favorite sites is not a good idea. If one is compromised, the thief will have access to everything. Keep different passwords for different sites and change them regularly. Use strong passwords with extra characters and numbers, the more random the better. Yes, it is a hassle keeping all of these passwords straight, but there are several applications designed to help you keep them all straight.
Anti-Virus Software is a Good Idea
Keep all your devices current with up to date anti-virus software to protect yourself against cybercrime and identity theft. Many of these applications are free, so there is no excuse to not have this added protection. Even if you are diligent about not opening executable files, you are bound to eventually make a mistake. Having the ability to scan for, quarantine, and delete malicious files will give you peace of mind whenever on public Wi-Fi.
Protecting yourself while using public Wi-Fi is not difficult. It requires common sense and discipline in your approach to cyber security. By utilizing powerful tools made available to keep you safe and developing sound habits to optimize cyber security, you can take advantage of public Wi-Fi virtually worry free.
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