Access to Wi-Fi is a selling point for locations as varied as a favorite restaurant to public parks. While access to a solid Wi-Fi connection is great when streaming a movie or music from any location, it comes with substantial risk. Use of an unsecured, public Wi-Fi hotspot opens a user to everything from malware installations to data theft. Here are tips to make using public Wi-Fi safer.
- Don’t access sensitive sites: It may be tempting to look at a credit card statement or confirm a bank balance, but doing so on a public Wi-Fi network is inviting cybercriminals to steal personal information. Some criminals even setup and provide free Wi-Fi in certain public areas in the hope users will connect to the hotspot and browse to websites storing financial and personal information.
- Don’t shop online: Similarly, taking advantage of Amazon Prime Day or ordering a pickup at a local department store should be avoided when on public Wi-Fi whether the connection is secured or not. That impulse Blu-ray purchase may be just the opportunity a cybercriminal is looking for to do a bit of shopping of their own.
- Disable Automatic Connectivity: Although connecting automatically to a home or office hotspot can be a convenience, ensure the option to connect automatically to any available Wi-Fi hotspot is disabled on all devices. Allowing a laptop, phone or tablet to randomly connect to any open hotspot makes the installation of malware exceptionally easy for bad actors.
- Subscribe to a VPN: Until recently, low-cost, easy access VPN was not an option for many users. However, a variety of VPN solutions for consumers have become available in the last five years making it much easier for users to encrypt their communications and hide personal information from hackers on the Internet. Most VPN solutions available have clients that run on Windows, Macs and smart phones. Some solutions even run very well on e-readers such as the Kindle Fire.
Author: Bill Green, Information Security Officer