People are used to seek convenience wherever they go, especially when it comes to the point where Internet connection is expected to be available 24/7 for mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Life has become complicated and we tend to spend a lot of time outside, instead of at home or at the office. This need for uninterrupted web surfing has been made evident over the past few years, with the use of public Wi-Fi increasing at a large scale. Airports and cafeterias, hotels and educational institutions are just few of the places where we seek open public Wi-Fi hotspots. However, such an increase does not come without a price! Useful and practical though it might be for the vast majority of Internet users, it holds severe threats and dangers to those who actually connect via such networks.
In the form of a rule, using an unsecured network ought to be avoided at all costs. Still, nobody can deny progress and this is why we should at least take everything with a grain of salt. This means that we should not connect to a public Wi-Fi, without first having taken the necessary precautions. Let’s see what a public Wi-Fi is and how we can get solid protection, while taking advantage of its benefits!
What Is a Public Wi-Fi?
Using WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), a public Wi-Fi is an open network offering free access to everyone within a specific range. For instance, if a cafeteria wishes to serve the customers in the field of Internet connectivity, the proper arrangements will be made for allowing them to publicly connect to the WLAN of the cafeteria, free of charge. There are options for using a specific password, which is easy to guess or of course requested by the cafeteria staff (such as the name of the cafeteria or 123456) or getting free access from the beginning. Either way, there are many people nowadays who choose where they are going to go, based on the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots.
The Aspect of Encryption in Wi-Fi
In case you are looking for public Wi-Fi encryption, you will be disappointed. In general, all the data sent over via such portals is unencrypted and this makes your web surfing a lot more prone to problems (hackers, snoopers and such). Since the Wi-Fi connection is open and free for everyone to benefit from, it goes without even saying that there is no encryption layer that can help you out remain anonymous and out of reach. On the contrary, you can be expected to have everyone within the very same range as you potentially gain access to your data. This can be creepy, but it is true! Everyone who recalls Firesheep will agree as to the hijacking attempts and other malicious threats that can be triggered via a public Wi-Fi.
Protecting Yourself Online
On the bright side, there are some things that you can do for keeping dangers at bay and offering yourself the best public Wi-Fi available within your reach. In case you are out and you feel the need to connect to the Internet via a public hotspot, you should be well aware of the consequences and try to eliminate any problem potentially caused by such unprotected networks. The basic things to keep in mind and comply with towards getting great results without any dangers lurking are the following:
- Consider Subscribing to a VPN: This is definitely a great way for you, in order to ensure that your data in encrypted and that you do not risk compromising classified documents, file sharing, passwords of email accounts and e-banking info. Of course, whoever spots you using a VPN will know that you are online; nevertheless, this is the only thing that he will know. No harm done!
- No Sharing Allowed: In avoidance of any negative consequences triggered by sharing your files with others who are completely strangers to you, you should change your settings accordingly. You can either do that from your Control Panel or choose the Public option on your Windows. In this way, no file sharing will be allowed and you will not jeopardize anything.
- SSL Certificate: If you are serious about encryption, you ought to choose websites starting with HTTPS. This is an extension highlighting the security layering of the site and this is an accurate way for you to minimize threats, when using a public Wi-Fi connection. HTTPS Everywhere is a wonderful tool, permitting you to browse the web carefree and without any restrictions whatsoever.
- Updating the Security of Your Device: Whether you wish to update your status on Facebook or share some files with your colleagues via email, it is important to keep your computer up to date with the latest versions of anti-virus and anti-malware software. What is more, you need to keep a solid firewall enabled at all times. This will shield your connection and help you confront with anything that comes your way online.
- Use Two-Factor Authentication: This is something that applies to every single aspect of web surfing and has to do with the premium security of your email accounts and e-banking options. Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication for getting that extra edge of protection for your private stuff!
- Disconnect When You Are Done: OK, you can use the public Wi-Fi for something that you have to do. Still, when you are done and you do not want to use this network any more, it would be great if you could disconnect. This prevents you from exposing your device to more dangers than necessary!
As you can see, when there is will, there is a way! You can benefit from the convenience that a public Wi-Fi offers so gracefully, as long as you are considerate and you do not avoid taking matters into your own hands regarding your online protection. Since this is a matter that concerns every one of us, you are encouraged to answer to our poll and share with us your thoughts on the subject of public Wi-Fi hotspots and the threats emerging.
Top-right image by: Wikipedia (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/32/Wi-Fi_Logo.svg/2000px-Wi-Fi_Logo.svg.png)