These days, public Wi-Fi can be accessed from various places like public transport, restaurants, parks, coffee shops, and so on. But the question arises that are these free of cost public WiFi really safe?
The truth is that Public WiFis aren’t safe at all but you can make them safe by changing few settings of your system and installing antivirus softwares. Moreover, the best practice to use wifi safely is to use VPN, a personal SSH access or a ip-hider software and encrypt the data traffic. The biggest security concern with public WiFi is that each time individuals make use of WiFi, they are actually opening doors to criminal organizations and hackers who within seconds can access as well as steal private, financial, and personal information of yours. When using wifi offered for public, one is actually broadcasting their confidential and private information to all.
A general misconception is there that wifi offered for public use by big organizations can be used safely but this is just not correct. There are several fraudsters who imitate different network names so that the other time when users are connecting to some public wifi in hotel or airport, these thieves can gain access to vital information of yours. This is the reason why big companies recommend making use of VPN strongly prior to connecting to wifi so as to make sure that you are having optimum protection. Fraudsters make use of fake wifi hotspots hence safe public wifi usage does not exist.
There are several ways that can assist you in securing your device as well and a few of them are given below:
- Wifi should be turned off when not in use. This helps in preventing the device from getting connected automatically to other WiFi networks running in your area.
- Always change the MAC address of your device each time when you connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots to prevent yourself from being tracked by hackers or advertisers when you travel around.
- Ensure you are visiting only those sites that make use of SSL. This can be determined by seeing “https” in URL address of the website. Here, S means secured. So it will be better if you look for this https on each page that you are visiting and in case if it isn’t there, restrict yourself from visiting such pages until it is very urgent.
- Don’t make use of public Wifi for accessing bank account, sending private or sensitive data, and shopping online.
- Ensure that all data or information that you send over publicly available wifi is encrypted.
Several tips about how to use wifi safely are given below:
- Keep antivirus software in your device on when you are using public wifi. Antivirus doesn’t guarantee 100% protection but still they will keep some bit of unauthorized activities away from your device. Make sure your antivirus is up-to-date as this will provide you first alert in case security of your system or device is being hindered when you are connecting to some unsecured network. Alerts are also displayed when viruses get loaded on the device or some suspicious behaviour like changes to registry files are noticed. Antivirus won’t catch each and every unauthorized activity but will protect against most of those unauthorised attacks.
- Firewall in your device should be turned on. Maximum operating systems come with in-built firewall that keeps in monitoring outgoing and incoming connections. Firewalls don’t offer complete protection but their settings must always be enabled. For activating firewall, simply go to Control panel in Windows OS and you will find firewall option under the System and Security option. All you need to do is click on Turn Windows Firewall On or Off. Now enter administrator password and verify that Windows Firewall has been activated. There are also many reliable third-party internet security suites that provide a integrated antivirus & firewall solution, Bitdefender, McAfee, and Norton internet security are among this.
- Protect Password as it helps in securing your online transactions. Keep unique passwords for each account as it will help in securing other accounts in case one of the passwords is compromised. It can be tricky to remember multiple secure passwords so you can make use of password managers like LastPass or KeePass as these are secure and safe. These are free tools that store information in varying ways. KeePass will maintain database file in encrypted form on your system whereas LastPass will store credentials of yours in cloud. But for this approach as well there are both advantages and disadvantages as these services aren’t complete safe and secure.
- Confirm network name prior to logging on to some public network. There are times when hackers set fake Wi-fi networks for attracting public wifi users. For this they can give nearly matching name to a secured network. When users connect to that fake network they get into hands of these eavesdroppers. In case you aren’t sure about the network name, it is better asking the provider.
- Make use of 2-factor authentication method. Here, 2 factor authentication method means public wifi users will require 2 piece of details for logging to their account. The first information will be something that they are aware of already whereas the other is something that they need to know. Often it takes the form of a password and code sent to mobile phone of users.