For anyone that travels, uses their phone in public, or stays constantly connected to the internet anywhere they go—which probably means you, Wi-Fi security should be a top priority. This day and age, we use wireless internet connection anywhere we can find, but often times, don’t think about the dangers of jumping on a public network and getting hacked. The term “hack” and “data breach” seem to be more common than ever, in the news and media—and there’s a reason for that. The increase of mobile device usage and connected technologies everywhere have been a blessing and a new curse because it has indirectly made your information and devices more susceptible. Here’s the 101 on Wi-Fi security and what you can do to keep the personal information stored on your mobile devices, well, personal.
1. Free doesn’t mean safe.
Just because Wi-Fi is free, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear for potential security breaches. Know that even if you have to log in with a password, likely provided by the establishment you’re in, it doesn’t mean your online activities are encrypted. Also beware of random Wi-Fi hotspots or free Wi-Fi networks that appear to be open to join. These could be made by hackers themselves as a way take advantage of those who aren’t careful and join.
2. Don’t be a victim.
It’s inevitable that you will use a public network to connect to the internet at some point in time. This is especially the case when you travel and need to do work in a public setting such as an airport, coffee shop, or hotel. While you can take advantage of this public connection, do take precaution as to what kind of activity you choose to do on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Avoid going on sites that hold private, sensitive information like bank accounts. The last thing you want is to have your savings account drained because you decided to open up your banking app and expose how much money you have over a public network.
3. Practice public safety.
If you are on a public Wi-Fi network, make sure all the sites you’re browsing start with HTTPS and not HTTP. Traffic on websites beginning with HTTP is visible to hackers, so avoid putting yourself in that scenario all together. Additionally, you can change your wireless settings so that they do not automatically connect to available Wi-Fi. By doing this, you prevent unintentionally putting your mobile activity out in the public and your information at risk.
4. Protect your private domain.
As for your own Wi-Fi network, there are some key actions you can take to help secure it. Change the default SSID on your wireless internet network and create a strong password as an added security measure—avoid including words from the dictionary. Hackers have access to precomputed tables of common SSIDs and passwords, so this helps to stop them from cracking the code.
5. Get an alternative.
It may be hard to resist the free public Wi-Fi, but if you can afford it and see the value in Wi-Fi security protection, then get yourself a personal hotspot. Mobile network providers like T-Mobile offer various options with generous data plans that make the investment worth it. When you set up your Wi-Fi hotspot, still take the same precautions as you would for your home network, like changing the defaults for added security. If a hotspot is not an option for you, then check to see if the company you work for has a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These are secure networks and definitely beat out public networks and subjecting yourself to hackers when you’re just trying to do work outside the office.
It’s a rough cyber world out there, but you can survive it. By being aware of Wi-Fi security and taking the right measures you can keep your devices and private information safe and surf the internet as you please.