Using Public WiFi Safely

Free WiFi is becoming ubiquitous in our local towns. Most public facilities including our town halls, libraries, and even some schools offer access. Many more stores, coffee shops, and restaurants offer free services as well. These can be great to have faster internet access and reduce data usage on your devices.

But some care must be taken.

Public WiFi comes in two varieties

1. Unsecured WiFi

These WiFi sites do not require a login or password. Therefore security on these sites is all but non-existent.  Use these connections with care.

2. Secured WiFi

These WiFi sites require a user to agree to legal terms, register an account, or type in a password before connecting to the network. It may also require a fee or store purchase to be made to gain access to the password or network. While inherently safer, use of these sites must also be done with care.

Safety Suggestions

♦ Always connect to secured public networks whenever possible. If you cannot connect to a secured network, using an unsecured network might be your only alternative. The best of these requires a login or registration.

♦ Never access personal bank accounts, or sensitive personal data when connected to unsecured public networks.

♦ Be mindful and watch your Bluetooth connectivity. Using Bluetooth in public places can be risky. A hacker could watch for open Bluetooth signals to gain access to your device. Keep this function on your phone and other devices locked down when you leave your home or office.

Avoid shopping online when using public Wi-Fi. Making online purchases requires personal information to be transferred that could include bank account and retailer login credentials.

♦ Never leave your laptop, tablet, or smartphone unattended.

♦ Turn off the automatic connectivity feature on your device. Smartphones, laptops, and tablets have automatic connectivity settings, offering seamless connect from one hotspot to the next without having to log in all the time.

♦ For banking and all other sites that ask for detailed personal information, use two-factor authentication whenever it’s offered. It’s a bit more work but it’s worth it in significantly enhanced security.

♦ To be really safe, use a VPN. Yes, this can be complicated and may not be necessary if other precautions are taken.