Keep your wireless network to yourself
Wireless networks connect the Internet to web-enabled devices by radio signals instead of using cables or wires. They provide flexibility and convenience, but also bring increased risk.
Smartphones and mobile devices that are automatically wireless have their own set of risks and precautions, which you can learn about here.
Wi-Fi security in public places
Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure and can be accessed by many different people. You can't rely on the same security as you would on your home Wi-Fi. So you need to take a couple of extra precautions, such as:
- Stick to wireless networks and hotspots that you know – like your local coffee shop or the airport where they provide you with a password to use their Wi-Fi. Unknown or unsecured public Wi-Fi doesn't require a password, so anyone can connect to it.
- Check that you're connected to the correct network.
- Hackers have been known to set up a phony parallel network near legitimate public Wi-Fi specifically to capture personal data and hijack information. Just one more reason to confirm you're on the right network.
So you're on a trusted, legitimate network. Now you also need to protect yourself from others connected to the same public network. Here are some tips for public Wi-Fi security:
- If you're using your computer in a public Wi-Fi zone but you're not on the Internet, it doesn't hurt to turn your device Wi-Fi off (click the wireless icon in your main menu bar or manually adjust this on the device hardware).
- Never surf without your firewall enabled – especially on a public Wi-Fi network. Here's how to install and enable a strong firewall.
- Never trust the wireless encryption on a public Wi-Fi. Instead, make sure your websites scramble your data by enabling the SSL encryption in the settings of the sites you visit (like your email).
- Visit the secure HTTPS version of sites and not the unsecure, regular HTTP site. Adjust the site URL with an extra ‘S' in your browser's address bar if needed. Be mindful of the URL in the address bar while you're exchanging sensitive data – if the ‘S' disappears you should log out right away.
- Surfing a social network on a public Wi-Fi network can be riskier than visiting normal websites. For instance, once you log in, criminals on the same network can also log in as you. Take extra precautions by erasing your browsing history, your cookies, etc. as if you were on a public computer.
- If you find yourself using public Wi-Fi a lot, a VPN (virtual private network) makes a lot of sense. It'll direct all your web activity through a secure, independent network that encrypts and protects all your data. A VPN is offered by most Internet Service Providers as a secondary service.
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