We’re all used to be connected to the internet via our phones or laptops wherever we are, but it’s not quite so simple as being able to do this everywhere. Sometimes the network signal is weak or non-existent and the easiest thing to do is log in to public Wi-Fi where it’s available.
However, with a quarter of all public Wi-Fi hotspots entirely unencrypted, there are huge security risks involved in using these networks without taking precautions. Luckily, there’s now a visual guide to everything you need to know about public Wi-Fi and the security do’s and don’ts, to help you avoid being one of the 87% of people who admit to taking risks while using it.
The first steps you can take are all about securing your data and devices ahead of needing to use public Wi-Fi, and one of these is using a VPN (a Virtual Private Network) which you can sign up for on your iOS or Android devices or Windows/Mac laptops. VPNs secure your data by encrypting it, meaning that anyone trying to hack into the Wi-Fi won’t be able to steal your information.
There’s also tools that are built-in to some of our devices these days to make our lives a bit simpler but which can work against us when it comes to insecure networks. So if you’re likely to be using the Wi-Fi at an airport or coffee shop anytime soon, you will want to disable functionality like file-sharing and auto-connectivity so that they don’t automatically leave you exposed.
When it comes to choosing a public Wi-Fi network, what should you look out for? Firstly, using well-known brands is a must (though not 100% certain to keep you safe) because large chain stores will spend big to make sure they use encryption. Check that the network is secure before signing into it or connecting, and ask a member of staff if you aren’t sure which is the official network. Connecting to public Wi-Fi always comes with risks, but if you follow all of these tips and stay vigilant, you can at least give yourself a better chance of avoiding becoming another victim of a data security breach.