First one needs to understand there are basically two types of public Wi-Fi networks: secured and unsecured.
An unsecured network can be connected to within range and without any type of security feature like a password or login. Conversely, a secured network requires 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 gain access to the password or network.
Regardless of the connection type, you should always use public Wi-Fi with caution. Below are some important Dos and Don’ts to consider when accessing public Wi-Fi:
Do visit only encrypted sites to help protect your data. Look for HTTPS at the beginning of a website’s address. This means the connection between the browser and the web server is encrypted, so even if any information is captured by a third party, it can not be read and is safe from eavesdropping or tampering. Most browsers also include a padlock symbol at the beginning of the address to indicate the site uses encryption.
Do connect to secured public networks whenever possible. In the event that you’re unable to connect to a secured network, using an unsecured network would be permissible if the connection requires some sort of login or registration.
Do turn off automatic connectivity. Most smartphones, laptops, and tablets have automatic connectivity settings, which allow you to seamlessly connect from one hotspot to the next. This is a convenient feature, but it can also connect your devices to networks you ordinarily would not use. Keep these settings turned off, especially when you’re traveling to unfamiliar places.
Do monitor your Bluetooth connectivity. Bluetooth in the home is an amazing feature on many smart devices. However, leaving Bluetooth on while in public places can pose a huge risk to your cybersecurity. Bluetooth connectivity allows various devices to communicate with each other, and a hacker can look for open Bluetooth signals to gain access to your devices. Keep this function on your phone and other devices locked down when you leave your home, office, or similar secured area.
Do think about using a virtual private network (VPN) solution to ensure your privacy and anonymity are protected when you use public Wi-Fi. VPNs encrypt your data traffic and act as a protected tunnel between the client (browser) and server. All the data passing through the tunnel won’t be visible to hackers and they won’t be able to access your information and the activities you do online.
Do turn on the firewall to prevent a hackers’ unauthorized external access to your system. A firewall won’t provide complete protection, but it’s a setting that should always be enabled.
Usually we turn off the Windows firewall because of the annoying pop ups and notifications and then just completely forget about it. If you want to restart it, then head over to the Control Panel, go to “System and Security” and select “Windows Firewall”. If you are a Mac user, you can go to “System Preferences”, then “Security & Privacy”, then “Firewall” tab and enable Firewall on Mac.
Do Use Antivirus. Antivirus can help protect you while using public Wi-Fi by detecting malware that might get into your system while using the shared network. Always make sure to use latest versions of antivirus program that is installed on your device. An alert will be shown if any known viruses are loaded onto your device or if there’s any suspicious activity, malicious attack, or malware gets into your system via network.
Do check “forget network” after using public Wi-Fi.
Do Always use 2 factor authentications – this way, even if a hacker obtains your username and password, they still won’t be able to access your accounts.
Don’t access personal bank accounts, or sensitive personal data, on unsecured public networks. Even secured networks can be risky. Use your best judgment if you must access these accounts on public Wi-Fi.
Don’t leave your laptop, tablet, or smartphone unattended in a public place. Even if you’re working on a secure Wi-Fi network, that won’t stop someone from taking your property or sneaking a peek at your device.
Don’t shop online when using public Wi-Fi. Sure, shopping doesn’t seem like it involves sensitive data, but making purchases online requires personal information that could include bank account and retailer login credentials. Shopping isn’t something you want to do on an unsecured Wi-Fi network.