Visiting a public Wi-Fi spot can be a great alternative to working from home, a convenient way to stay connected while you travel or even just an excuse to browse the web while you get your coffee fix. Hello Starbucks! But there’s a very dark side to these public hotspots… they’re an open door to your electronic world of information. Bank accounts, credit card numbers, passwords, and more. Our entire lives are on our devices. Here are some steps you should take to keep hackers out of your hardware.
ALWAYS confirm the network name. Bumming Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop? Looking for a network in a hotel lobby? Wherever you are, never assume you know the network name. Some hackers create free Wi-Fi spots that don’t require passwords, making it easy to access your information due to lack of encryption security. To be sure, verify with an employee or triple check the spelling if it’s printed out before connecting.
Use HTTPS when browsing the web. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure is the secure version of the HTTP you usually use when visiting a URL. Adding that simple ‘S’ at the end encrypts everything between your browser and the sites you visit, keeping information like banking passwords and credit card numbers safe and sound.
Use encrypted storage security. Storing your important files in encrypted storage means they’re password protected and as safe as the money in a bank vault. You can find a range of encryption options, from free downloads to software for purchase that offers more security features. This will ensure that even if hackers do gain access to your computer via an open network, they will not be able to enter your protected vault of files. Think of it like a locked treasure chest within your system, and you’re the only one with the map and the key.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is simply a group of networks that secure and encrypt communication, and can be connected to remotely. Businesses use this often to connect individuals to network resources, but you can use it to secure your public Internet connection and to protect any data you’re sending and receiving. However you choose to use your VPN, make sure you choose a service that offers protocols on connectivity, server location, and offers features that meet your needs.
Make a turn-off checklist and follow it. When you’re planning to visit a location where you know you’ll be using a public network, turn off automatic connection to Wi-Fi on your device. This guarantees you’ll never accidentally join a fake network created to steal your data. Also remember to turn off Wi-Fi when you’re done browsing, always ensuring that you are in control of what, when, and how you connect.
Finally, make it a habit to turn off sharing. You never know who’s roaming around trying to covertly access your information. If you have sharing enabled on your device and forget to turn it off, you’re basically waving a flag to potential cybercriminals and saying, here’s an easy target! And never, ever save passwords. It’s convenient but it makes it even easier for any potential threats to access your electronic information.