5 Easy Ways to Stay Safe While Using Public Wi-Fi

by Madi M.

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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5 Easy Ways to Stay Safe While Using Public Wi-Fi

These days, a person can find a free wi-fi network on just about every block. Almost every library, coffee shop, gym, and restaurant has public wi-fi. Their convenience makes them a simple option when I need to work on my laptop or tablet. I can also use my cell phone on public wi-fi without worrying about running down my data package. However, that convenience comes with risks. Public wi-fi networks are typically open and not very secure. They lend themselves to hacking and snooping, compromised machines may be connected to the network, and sometimes the hotspot itself is malicious, putting your sensitive information at risk.

Luckily, there are ways to increase the level of security when using public wi-fi. Listed below are five ways that the average web user can browse on these networks more safely.

Avoid Accessing Sensitive Data
This is the best piece of advice that a person can follow that doesn’t involve any tools or additional software. When using an unsecured and/ or public network, use that opportunity to check the news, read a blog, or even watch a video. While browsing on an unsecured public connection, it is not the time to access things like personal banking or email. Snoopers may be able to see what is being typed into webforms or hijack browsing sessions. Don't visit websites or conduct any personal transactions that could be vulnerable to hackers.

Turn Off File Sharing/ AirDrop
Regardless of the type of machine being used, there is probably some type of file sharing option that was designed to work with other trusted computers. On open/unencrypted networks, however, these features could make it possible for anyone nearby to send files including viruses and malware to other machines. Turning these features off and turning on your firewalls can add an extra layer of security when browsing on public networks. The AirDrop feature on Mac devices also has a “Contacts Only” option that may be useful if you need to share files but want to limit sharing to certain people.

Keep Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software Up to Date
It is important to have both antivirus and anti-malware protection on your computer. Many users have either one of these or the other, but neither may not be up to date. Make sure you have both types of protections. In reality viruses are just one type of malware. Adding anti-malware in addition to antivirus software will help to protect from other types of threats such as spyware, adware, trojans, and worms. The types of malicious code may change over time, so keeping security software up to date is the best way to ensure protection against the latest known threats.

Use HTTPS Whenever Possible
Using "https" instead of "http" ensures that you load a secure version of the site you’re visiting. The easiest way to tell is to check the URL for the page you want to browse. If it begins with "https" instead "http", then the secure version of that site has been loaded. Many browsers have been updated to load this version by default. Most email and social media accounts have options in their settings that allow "https" to be set as the default. There are also browser extensions that can be used to make sure only the secure versions of webpages are loaded.

Use a VPN
The very best way to protect one’s computer and information from an untrusted network is to set up direct encrypted access to a trusted network. This can be done using a VPN which can ensure that all data between your personal machine and the untrusted network is encrypted. It can also protect against snoopers that may be on that same network. While setting up an encrypted VPN may sound complicated, it can be done easily by using Norton Wi-Fi Privacy. Norton makes the process as simple as downloading software. All you need to do is follow the prompts to set up a network that will allow for encrypted, anonymous browsing, and ad blocking. You can also gain global access to content and information that may normally be restricted to a particular country (such as TV shows and other licensed content).

Whether you are a casual web browser or a globe-trotting businessperson, a product like Norton Wi-Fi Privacy is what you need in order to take advantage of the convenience of open wi-fi. You and your personal information will stay safe from computer hackers while lowering the risk of stolen information or identity theft.

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