You’re at an airport waiting for your plane so you connect your laptop to the public Wi-Fi to get some work done while waiting. You’re hanging out at the coffee ship with friends and hop on their free hotspot to show a funny video without eating up your data minutes.
These are just two scenarios out of hundreds where connecting to a free public wireless connection is both convenient and economical.
81% of people admit to using public Wi-Fi at some time or another despite the security risks. Some use it when they don’t have another way to connect and others (a full 32%) prefer using free wireless over their data plan.
While the new Wi-Fi 6 promises to help alleviate some of the security risks of connecting to public hotspots in the future, it only came out a few months ago, so it’s going to take a while for it to roll out around the country.
Dangers of Connecting to Free Wi-Fi
There are multiple potential security issues when connecting your device to a public Wi-Fi and any of these could put your personal data at risk of being stolen or put your company in danger of a data breach. If you’re using good anti-virus protection and managed services, that can protect from some, but not all of the following.
These dangers include:
- Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: A hacker can intercept your data when connected to the same public Wi-Fi and position themselves between you and the internet connection.
- Eavesdropping: Special software can allow hackers to eavesdrop on your internet session, allowing them to capture login credentials and other sensitive information.
- Fake Wi-Fi Networks: Hackers set up innocent-looking free hotspots to entice users to connect and once you do, they can harvest all your valuable data.
- Malware Infections: Using vulnerabilities in a public wireless network, hackers can inject your device with malware while you’re connected to the same network.
- Remote Access: If you’re on a public Wi-Fi and haven’t secured you sharing settings, it can allow another device on the network to discover your device and access shared folders.
Tips for Securing Your Device When on a Free Hotspot
Most people rely on using public Wi-Fi either occasionally or all the time, so just not connecting to it isn’t typically an option. But what is an option is using safety tips to ensure your device and data are protected when you’re connected.
Use a VPN
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are the safest way to connect to public Wi-Fi. It encrypts your traffic so hackers on the same network can’t access it and will also mask your IP address.
How it works is that you sign up for a VPN service and then choose one of their servers from which to connect. Most people will use one that’s closest to them. Then you actually are connecting first to their server then to the internet. The IP address everyone sees is that of the VPN server, not yours.
Company VPNs can offer employees a way to securely connect to company resources no matter where they are and ensure security on those free Wi-Fi connections.
Increase Device Security Settings
When you’re at the office or at home, having your device discoverable and sharing folders with your network can be convenient, but when you’re not, it can be dangerous.
If you’re going to be connecting to a public Wi-Fi, you want to turn off device discover so other devices connected to the same network won’t see yours.
In Windows, go to the Network and Sharing Center, select Change advanced sharing settings. Click to turn off network discovery.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Sharing where you’ll find folder sharing, Bluetooth sharing, and firewall preferences.
The second setting you want to adjust is folder sharing. Turn all sharing off so no folders are being shared with strangers who happen to be on the same wireless connection.
Double Check that You’re on the Right Wi-Fi
It’s easy to get fooled by a fake Wi-Fi that a hacker sets up to gain access to your device, so double check the Wi-Fi name before you click to connect. If you’re at a hotel, make sure you’re not just guessing at the right connection because “Hotel Pool” might be a decoy set up by scammers.
It’s also a good idea to never let your device auto-connect to free Wi-Fis, so it’s not connecting without your realizing it.
Switch to Mobile Data for Any Logins
Never enter your username and password into an application while on a free Wi-Fi, because there’s just too much of a chance that your traffic could be spied on, and that includes the keystrokes you’re making.
If you need to log in to something while traveling or away from your home or office, then switch off your Wi-Fi and put your mobile device on data. Then once you’re already logged in, you can switch back if you need to.
Use Your Phone as a Hotspot for Your Laptop
Many mobile carriers offer unlimited data these days, so often a laptop is connected to a hotspot, not to save data but because it’s the only way the user knows how to get it online.
Most smartphones have an option to use them as a hotspot, meaning that you can create your own safe wireless connection using your mobile plan for your laptop to get online. Make sure you secure your hotspot with a strong password so other people can’t use it without your permission.
Keep Your Devices Secure with an MSP Plan
Device and data security are a major concern. You can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting your sensitive information. A managed services plan with Cris’s Tech Repair can help keep your home or business devices safe and monitored for any threats.
Contact us today to ensure your devices are protected. Call 561-985-4961 or reach out online.