Are you always on a hunt for free Wi-Fi? With many establishments offering it for free, it’s hard not to accept and want the offer. However, even if free Wi-Fi can make your life a little easier, you need to be aware that it also poses security risks to your personal information.
Basically, there are two types of public Wi-Fi networks: secured and unsecured. A secure network will need the user to agree to certain legal terms, register an account, or key in a password before he can connect. An unsecured network, on the other hand, allows you to connect within range without any type of security features such as a password or login.
If you need to connect to a Wi-Fi network, get a reliable internet package instead. But if you can’t help but use a public Wi-Fi network, do so with caution by bearing in mind the following dos and don’ts.
1. Connect only to secure public networks whenever possible.
If you really need to connect to a public Wi-Fi, find a secure one. In cases where you can’t connect to a secure network, you can still keep yourself safe by connecting to an unsecured network as long as the connection requires some sort of login.
2. Identify secure web pages.
Most web pages begin with ‘http://.’ However, a secure page that uses encryption looks different as it starts with ‘https://.’ So the next time you go online, keep in mind that the extra “s” makes a huge difference in your security especially if you’re typing in your user ID and password.
Remember, never trust an unsecured website that asks for your personal information.
3. Be wary of shared PCs.
Are you considering using a public computer in a café or library? You can do so as long as the website doesn’t require you to log in with a password or key in your credit card number. It pays to be wary as there’s no way to tell whether malware or software that may compromise your data has been installed in the computer you’re using.
4. Check for any nosy onlookers.
Some thieves, also known as ‘shoulder surfers,’ will try to steal a glimpse of your personal information on your laptop or smartphone. When keying in passwords, always be aware of persons nearby and shield your screen.
A great general rule when using public Wi-Fi is to only access information that you’d feel comfortable for anyone looking over your shoulder to see.
1. Don’t access financial information.
When using an open network, never access your bank or credit card website. Moreover, don’t make in-app or online purchases and think hard before sending any sensitive emails.
For financial or any sensitive transactions, it’s much safer to get a postpaid plan with data. This way, you have the option to enable your mobile carrier’s network or use a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.
2. Don’t forget to turn off automatic connectivity.
Most devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets have automatic connectivity settings. This allows you to connect from one hotspot to the next without a glitch. Although it’s quite a convenient feature, it also puts you at risk as it will automatically connect your device to networks you normally wouldn’t use.
When you’re not at home or in the office and traveling in an unfamiliar place, make sure to keep the automatic connection feature in your smartphone, tablet or laptop turned off.
3. Don’t forget to log out
Logging out after each use is as equally important as logging into secure apps and websites. When you log out, this means you’re informing the computer or website that you’re ending your access. This will help prevent others from messing with your account.
4. Don’t overlook VPN
Do consider using a virtual private network or VPN to ensure your privacy when using public Wi-Fi. A VPN can encrypt all the data you send out and receive while connected to an unsecured network. This will help in securing your information from other users who are also connected to the same network.
Keep yourself safe
Think twice before risking your data safety by connecting to an unsecured public network.
Get your own data plan or internet package instead so that you can browse anytime you want without putting yourself at risk. Just because a public Wi-Fi is free, doesn’t mean it’s good to take advantage of it.
Al-moottil P Antony is a C-Suite Executive Support Professional for Zain, a leading mobile and data services operator with a commercial footprint in 8 Middle Eastern and African countries.