How To Stay Safe Using Public WiFi

by Brad Garland

How to Navigate Using Unsecured Networks

Almost everywhere you go, people are using their smartphones and IoT connected devices to stay connected to their friends, families, favorite apps, and important info every day. In most cases, a wireless network connection is needed, typically through what we know as WiFi. At home, at work, and at someone else’s house, you might connect to the WiFi using a password, because they have a secure network that uses certain security measures to prevent unwanted users and hackers from accessing it. 

However, there are many times when you find yourself outside of a place you know well or visit often, such as the airport, a cafe, or restaurants and bars. When you want to connect to the WiFi in these areas, you generally find that there are free or public options that you can connect to without a passcode. 

Unfortunately, these types of networks, while convenient and often a huge life-saver, can come with some risks. Because there is little to no password protection, and other users can see your devices on the network, it makes for a great hunting ground for hackers and cybercriminals who want to prey on unsuspecting victims. But thankfully, there are ways you can stay protected and secure when using public WiFi networks. 

Navigating the Dangers

For starters, knowing how to tell the difference between a secure and unsecured network is important. Not all public networks will be unsecured, but it’s often the case. As you might have guessed, unsecured networks can generally be accessed by anyone, without needing to input credentials like a login password, pin code, or other access code. This means that anyone can connect their phone, laptop, or other devices and other users on the network can potentially see them, their info, or what they are doing.

A secured network will, as we mentioned, probably have a password. Say you visit a bar for happy hour and you notice their WiFi password written on the wall for customers. This is an example of a secured public network. While you can enjoy the extra safety benefit, you may still be at risk because you don’t know what level of security they are using to ensure your private information is not accidentally or maliciously stolen while using their network. 

Additionally, knowing what type of websites and apps you should and shouldn’t do while on unsecured networks and in public spaces is important. For example, avoid online shopping, checking your bank account, or enter sensitive personal data on a public network. If you absolutely must, be sure that it is secure and you are using additional methods of protection. 

Using a VPN to Protect Your Data

One of the best ways to help ensure that you are safe even when using public WiFi you may not necessarily trust is by setting up a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. Essentially, this provides a shield between your devices and any other users that may also be on the WiFi network. This means that you are safer when browsing the internet when in a public space. You may have already been instructed to use a VPN by your job, as this is a common requirement for those who use company-issued devices or talk about sensitive work information on their personal phones, laptops, or tablets. 

However, if you aren’t familiar with how to use or set up a VPN, it’s fairly easy! There are many subscription-based services available that allow you to connect to a VPN whenever you use your devices to ensure they are protected from anyone who may be trying to hack you or trick you into logging into a fake access point. 

If you are looking for a good VPN to start with, consider doing some research online! Options like Private Internet Access (PIA) allow you to stay protected with a monthly subscription. 

Getting Outside Assistance

If you are looking for a way to set up your business and employees to ensure they are using secure networks and staying protected, we can help! With so many companies transitioning to work-from-home practices and using programs like Zoom (LINK to BLOG), it can be more important than ever to implement VPNs and ensure that your home system is set up to fight off any predatory people. To learn more about how Vala Secure can help protect your company, wherever you are working, call us today at 972.429.8200!