In 2013 Wi-Fi hotspots are ubiquitous. Gas stations, car washes, 30 minute oil shops and Dunkin doughnuts all offer free public Wi-Fi. Our iPhones, iPads, Androids, Blackberries and Kindles pick up random Wi-Fi signals dozens of times every day. Department stores like Nordstrom’s are sniffing out these innocent “pings” to track our movements throughout their stores.
Germany recently fined Google for using their Street View cars to mine unsuspecting user’s traffic and passwords from private and public Wi-Fi networks. In 2012 a Kaspersky study found that public Wi-Fi has become the most common method of accessing the internet throughout the world. During the same year the ITRC showed that while 79% of users realize that their identity could be stolen while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot only 27% of them are using a VPN service to enhance their public Wi-Fi security.
Simple steps to enhance your public Wi-Fi security
The unfortunate thing about public Wi-Fi security is popular hotspots do not extend any protection to their users and their users already inherently trust in the company providing free Wi-Fi. After all, when you’re at Starbucks getting your morning fix we are conditioned to trust the brand that is Starbucks. You know no matter how many shots of espresso you order they won’t put LSD in your coffee. So when we hop on their Public Wi-Fi hotspot to surf the web we expect there to be some sort of enhanced public Wi-Fi security policy in place. This is not the case. So I will go over some simple ways you can enhance your Wi-Fi security. I know everyone reading this already practices good public Wi-Fi security habits so just tweet this to your friends and let them know you care.
Turn off your devices Wi-Fi feature when it’s not in use
Not only does this save batteries but it also keeps you’re device from connecting to rogue public Wi-Fi hotspots setup to steal unsuspecting user’s data. It’s not enough to just turn off the auto connect feature. Some devices never fully turn off automatic connections. They just enter a low power mode.
Disable file sharing
File sharing is something many of us can’t live without when we are at home. When your browsing from a public Wi-Fi hotspot with file sharing turned on even the most inept hacker can break into your device and steal your internet cache. So don’t forget to turn it off every time you are finished using it. If you have a hard time remembering to turn off your Wi-Fi antenna you can use an app like to automatically turn off your Wi-Fi when you disconnect from your preferred Wi-Fi hotspot. While this software can be used in a pinch using it instead of manually turning off your Wi-Fi antenna is not something we recommend.
Purchase VPN Service
When you are connected to the internet via a hotspot the best and really only way to ensure a safe Wi-Fi session is by using a VPN service. A VPN tunnel is used to enhance your public Wi-Fi security to an acceptable level for online banking, email browsing and shopping on e-commerce websites. Many VPN services will work with any device and some like LiquidVPN offers you the ability to connect to their servers multiple times. This will allow you to protect your whole family with 1 subscription.
Confirm Network Name
Criminals with Malicious intent will often times setup their own Wi-Fi hotspot with the hopes of using tools to scrape everyone that connects data. For users connecting to these hotspots it is a very dangerous network to be attached to. Many times the network name of a locations Wi-Fi hotspot will have an unfamiliar name associated with it. That is why it is so important that you verify the Public Wi-Fi hotspot’s network name before you connect to it. The employees will know what the network name is.
Browsing the internet from a Wi-Fi hotspot is very useful. As long as you have taken the proper steps to enhance your public Wi-Fi security than surfing from a hotspot can be considered very safe.