6 Important Ways to Prevent Public Wi-Fi Attacks

August 8, 2016

9:00 am

Free Wi-Fi is a popular amenity for those of us looking to stay connected on the go. Whether you’re at the airport or at the dog park, the convenience of free Wi-Fi is simply undeniable. Although it seems harmless enough to connect your device to a free network for a minute or two, it only takes moments for a Wi-Fi attacker to hack into the system and view your personal information and files.

The risks of logging on to public Wi-Fi can be pretty scary, but if you take the necessary steps to protect your device from hackers, you can significantly reduce your chances of falling victim to a public Wi-Fi attack. Here are six important steps you should take before logging on to a public network.

1. Turn-Off Sharing Settings

These days, we’re hardly at a shortage for apps that allow us to share our information with others quickly. Although these apps are great for sharing images and funds when you want to share them, they can cause some serious damage when you leave them on at times when you don’t want to share. Before you log on to a public Wi-Fi network, be sure to turn off all sharing settings on your device to keep others from accessing your information and files.

2. Stick to HTTPS and SSL Sites and Use a VPN

While browsing on a public connection, it is important to stick to secure sites. HTTPS and SSL sites are secured against attacks which means they are the safest to use during an online session on a public connection. Using a VPN is another solid way to protect yourself while using a public Wi-Fi connection. A VPN, or virtual private network, helps secure your browsing by encrypting the traffic between a device and the server to shield your information from potential hackers. iOS and Android devices allow you to set up a VPN through pretty simple processes.

PureVPN or TorGuard are great VPNs and work on PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

3. Avoid Unencrypted Networks

Unencrypted networks include any network that isn’t protected by a password. Logging on to an unprotected network is one of the biggest ways you can set yourself up for a Wi-Fi attack. The first reasons is because the connection is unprotected, anyone can login from anywhere within a reasonable distance from the hotspot.  The second is that potential attackers often set up fake, unencrypted hotspots with generic names to lure in unsuspecting users then take control of their devices.

Look for the official Wi-Fi connection of the location where you’re hoping to connect before you choose one of the available networks showing up on your device. If the official network is not password protected, you might be better off finding another spot with an encrypted network.

4. Stay Out of Sensitive Accounts

Checking things like your bank account, your loan information, even your Facebook is a bad idea when using a public Wi-Fi network. Before you logon to a public Wi-Fi network, be sure to logout of all of the personal accounts on your device. This holds especially true if you break one of the cardinal rules of cyber security and use the same password for multiple accounts, which would leave all of your accounts vulnerable if one were to be hacked.

5. Make Sure Antivirus Software Is Up-to-Date

Simply installing an antivirus software then neglecting it won’t do you much good. Each time you miss an update, your device becomes more vulnerable to potential attacks. According to reports, less than one-fifth of Americans surveyed update their antivirus software when prompted by a notification.

When you get an antivirus notification, be sure to update your software as soon as possible. It will only take a few minutes and could significantly reduce your vulnerability to Wi-Fi attacks.

6. Disable Wi-Fi When You’re Not Using It

Finally, once you’re done using the internet on a public connection, be sure to turn off the Wi-Fi settings on your device. This will help you limit the amount of time potential hackers could have access to your device. You should also remember to “forget” the network you connected to so that your device doesn’t automatically connect to it without you knowing next time you visit the same location.

Working online while using a public Wi-Fi connection can be a bit risky, but by following the tips above, you can prevent attacks on your device. If you have any questions regarding online security and public Wi-Fi, I’d be happy to provide answers! Let me know in the comments below.

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Cosette is a freelance writer and digital lifestyle expert with the goal of helping readers simplify life and work using affordable tech tools and apps. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, snowboarding, and traveling.