Using Free or Public Wi-Fi Connections? Proceed With Extra Caution

woman on phone in restaurant

We are coming to expect all businesses and public areas to offer a Wi-Fi “hotspot” for connecting your smart device online. This can be great for browsing the web or casually reading something like a blog, but hotspots should not be used for sensitive information. When you are connecting to public Wi-Fi to access the Internet with your phone, tablet or laptop, you need to be aware that your sensitive personal information could be targeted by hackers. That is because those Wi-Fi spots that don’t require a password are sending everything in clear, readable text that can be intercepted and read by criminals. Any passwords, credit card information or other sensitive, private information can be easily stolen if you don’t take steps to protect yourself. We share a few simple tips below.

Tips to Protect Yourself on Wi-Fi Connections

Use Secure Networks

When you look at the list of Wireless Networks available, most computers and mobile devices will display a “lock icon” for secure networks. Avoid networks without this icon. A secured network uses data encryption to transmit information from your computer or device, which makes the information unreadable. One of the quickest ways to tell if a network is secure, is to try joining the network. If it asks for a password, it is secured.

Turn Off File & Print Sharing

Your device settings include the option of sharing files and printing. This allows users to move files between computers over the network. On a public Wi-Fi network with sharing turned on, criminals have easy access to all the information stored on your device. Turn off sharing to minimize your chances of having information stolen.

Use Your Own Hotspot

If you have a phone that will act as a personal hotspot, or a mobile broadband modem, use it. Such devices are far more secure than public hotspots. Make sure you use recommended security settings, and a secure password for your mobile hotspot connection. Without security settings, criminals can use your hotspot as a doorway into your computer, or device. Not securing your personal hotspot with a password could also let strangers freeload off your connection, which can max out your data plan, or increase your bill.

Keep Operating Systems & Firmware Updated

Stay aware of available operating system or firmware updates for devices such as smartphones and routers, taking advantage of any patch installations as soon as they become available to protect you and your information. These updates often address any vulnerabilities that were discovered, making your device more secure to keep your information safe.

To learn more tips that protect your identity from theft, check out our resources available.


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