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Top 5 Tips to Stay Safe While Using Public Wi-Fi

Whenever we’re on the go or traveling abroad, one of the things that bring us immense joy is “free public Wi-Fi”. We’re addicted to staying connected at all times, and why not avail free internet where it’s available, right? While free Wi-Fi may seem like a godsend, we should not ignore the potential risks associated with it.

If you’re roaming around your own city or traveling within the country, it is recommended to go for encrypted Wi-Fi hotspots that belong to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). For instance, if you are a customer of Xfinity, you are eligible to gain access to over 20 million secure Wi-Fi hotspots across the United States.

Contact Xfinity Customer Service to learn more about their internet plans and Wi-Fi privileges. Signing up with a top-notch ISP has its perks, and quality internet is a means of upgrading your lifestyle. Until then, implement these safety tips to protect yourself from hackers and phishers while you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network:

How to Stay Safe on a Public Wi-Fi Network

  1. Disable Auto-connect and Bluetooth
  2. Confirm the legitimacy of the Network
  3. Don’t Share or Access Sensitive Information
  4. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  5. Prefer using a Private Hotspot

1.     Disable Auto-connect and Bluetooth

Our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices are often enabled for auto-connectivity. This means that your device will automatically connect to a public Wi-Fi network in range if there’s no password required; this also happens if you previously connected to this network and your device remembers the password.

It would help if you only connected to public Wi-Fi when you absolutely need to use it, so disable the auto-connect option in the “mobile network settings” of your device. In addition, mobile devices that have Bluetooth enabled are discoverable by other devices in the area. Therefore, if your Bluetooth is on in a public place, hackers nearby may attempt to access your device and share malicious files.

Secured Wi-Fi hotspots, i.e. networks that require users to sign up or type in a passcode to connect are comparatively safer to use, as opposed to open Wi-Fi hotspots. If you connect to a Wi-Fi network you don’t fully trust, you can check ‘forget network’ as an added precaution after it has served its purpose.

2.     Confirm the legitimacy of the Network

Your smartphone or laptop may detect multiple open Wi-Fi networks in crowded public places, such as airports and shopping malls. When this happens make sure you connect to a legit one, or your privacy could be compromised.

For example, just because the Wi-Fi network is named “shopping mall Wi-Fi” doesn’t mean it actually belongs to the mall. It might have been set up by a hacker to fool you into connecting to a harmful network where they can steal your data. Moreover, most Wi-Fi networks offered by public businesses are secured, i.e. you need to sign up or type in a passcode to get access.

Let’s say you make a stop at a coffee shop within the mall, you should ask one of the employees to let you know which network belongs to the mall or shop. Avoid connecting to any random open Wi-Fi networks detected by your mobile device.

3.     Don’t Share or Access Sensitive Information

When you’re connected to free public Wi-Fi, be wary of your internet usage. Avoid accessing or sharing any sensitive information over the open network, as it could be exposed to notorious hackers nearby. For starters, do not log into your banking apps or share any financial info while you’re at it.

Sharing of personal information is highly discouraged even if the public Wi-Fi hotspot you’re connected to is secured by a password. While it may not be as risky as a random open Wi-Fi network, it might still expose you to malware.

4.     Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN can help encrypt your data while it passes to and from your mobile device while you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. The encryption protects your data from being accessed or viewed by the network operator or anyone using this network with malicious intentions.

The VPN also equips you with a false IP address, so you cannot be geographically located; this enhances your online privacy and prevents transgressors from approaching you. If you’re someone who travels a lot or uses public Wi-Fi hotspots frequently, consider installing a trusted VPN app or extension on all your devices.

5.     Prefer using a Private Hotspot

If you have the option to connect to cellular data while on the go, you must go for it. Cellular data provided by your mobile network is much safer than any public hotspot facility. You can enable a hotspot from your smartphone to use the cellular data on your laptop and tablet as well.

In case you’re abroad and cannot access cellular data from local networks, share with your colleagues or friends in the area. Request that they enable a Wi-Fi hotspot from their smartphone so you can connect through a private network rather than relying on open public Wi-Fi.

Wrapping Up

Whenever you are tempted to connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, remember that your safety comes first. Keeping your mobile devices up-to-date and enabling a firewall is also vital to shield yourself from online threats.

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