5 Top Tips for Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is available in many locations, allowing anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone to access the Internet free of charge. However, using a public Wi-Fi hotspot leaves your device and data vulnerable to hackers and cyber thieves, as any data you transmit through public Wi-Fi connections can be intercepted and stolen by others using the same network. Taking a few precautions will help to protect your data and devices. Here are five top tips for staying safe when using public Wi-Fi.

Avoid Entering Financial Details

Avoid using public Wi-Fi to pay for goods and services with a credit or debit card, as your card numbers can be stolen. Sometimes, cyber thieves use stolen credit card details to buy illegal goods, such as drugs or pornography, which can lead to potential legal problems, unless you are able to prove that someone else has used your card. In addition, avoid accessing your bank, credit card or other financial accounts, as cyber thieves can easily steal and use your account information to transfer money from your accounts.

Look for Protected Connections

Password-protected Wi-Fi hotspots, such as those found in some coffee shops, fast food restaurants, airports and public libraries, offer more security than open connections, although they should still be treated as public wireless connections and never used to access bank or credit card accounts. Some websites, such as Google Maps, provide useful information on how to find password-protected hotspots in your area.

Use a Virtual Private Network

Using a virtual private network (VPN) enables you to browse the Internet anonymously and protects against data theft, as a VPN encrypts all data transmitted over the network. There are many websites offering VPN connections, with both free and paid options available, but it's important to choose a reputable site with a good track record. Research the websites thoroughly and check user reviews to help ensure the safety of your data.

Update Your Software

Always update your operating system, security programs and other software as soon as new updates become available, as these updates often include patches and fixes for known security problems. Change the settings on installed software, such as browsers, games and other applications, to automatically check for updates. Antivirus and anti-malware programs should be updated daily to make sure your device is protected against the newest threats.

Tweak Your Security Settings

Most computers and devices come with a range of additional security settings, such as disk encryption, which can help to protect your data. Turning off file sharing and preventing your device from installing third party applications will also help to protect your device. In addition, remember to close connections, including wireless and Bluetooth connections when you have finished using them.

Public Wi-Fi can be found in a wide range of locations, including coffee shops, fast food restaurants and airports. While public wireless allows you to access the Internet free of charge, it also leaves your devices and data vulnerable to hackers and cyber thieves. You can reduce the risks of using public connections if you avoid entering financial details, look for protected connections, use a VPN, update your software regularly and tweak your security settings.