5 Tips to Stay Secure Using Public Wi-Fi

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Browsing websites and shopping online using a public Wi-Fi can put personal information right into the hands of hackers. Connecting to secure websites, protecting your passwords, and just being aware of your whereabouts can prevent thieves from stealing your identity and emptying your bank account. Even the act of “shoulder surfing” — when discreet thieves obtain credit card info or log-in passwords by peering over your shoulder in a crowded place, according to Life Lock — can make confidential data highly vulnerable. Be protective over your activities and adopt the following pointers to prevent an attack.

1. Password Protection

Avoid selecting “remember password” while logging in to a browser to prevent hackers within the network from compromising your account. Using complex passwords for each account can also strengthen your security. KeePass Password Safe, a free open source password manager, and LastPass, a freeware tool, can help you safely store and manage all your passwords, recommends LaptopMag.com. KeePass stores passwords within a central database that’s locked with a master key or key file. LastPass uses encryption technology to protect stored data — before sensitive data syncs with LastPass, it’s locally encrypted and decrypted. Your key is never shared, and you’re the only one who can access your information.

2. VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) directs traffic through a secure network. With a paid VPN service, you can securely browse websites and trust that your personal information is protected, even while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. In short, a VPN serves as a method for secure and encrypted communication exchanged over a questionable public network.

3. Secure Networks

Never connect to a wireless hotspot that doesn’t offer security safeguards. Connect to wireless hotspots that require online registration and a password for logging in. You can trust a password-protected network because the required password ensures it’s encrypted. Check your smartphone, tablet or laptop’s settings to disable auto-connecting to available Wi-Fi hotspots. LaptopMag.com explains that Wi-Fi auto-connecting typically is disabled by default, but double checking that this setting is turned off could prevent a potentially devastating outcome. Also, be aware of connecting to fake a Wi-Fi network established by a hacker. A nearby employee should be able to confirm that a network is official.

4. HTTPS

A website using HTTPS ensures encrypted transfers and activity. You can identify a confidential website by checking for a padlock in the address bar or “https://…” in the URL, notes HowTo.CNET.com. Websites without HTTPS transfer content, such as passwords and email addresses, in plain text that can be exposed by hackers. Ensure that all your connections are encrypted with HTTPS Everywhere, a browser extension that provides secure browsing. If you use Firefox or Chrome, communication with major websites will be encrypted. HTTPS Everywhere technology rewrites requests to websites defaulting to unencrypted HTTP to use HTTPS, describes EFF.org.

5. Security Tools & Anti-Virus Software

Installing the latest anti-virus software can help you identify suspicious behavior or catch unauthorized activity before a hacker attacks your operating system. Check for built-in security features on Mac OS X and Windows, suggests HowTo.CNET.com. In your computer’s security settings, make sure to enable your firewall, check “block all incoming traffic,” and disable file sharing to maximize your security measures.

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Author: Francis Rey

Francis is a voracious reader and prolific writer. He has been writing about social media and technology for more than 10 years. During off hours, he relishes moments with his wife and daughter.

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