Public Wi-Fi networks can now be found almost everywhere, making life just a little bit easier – or so it seems. Although these Wi-Fi hotspots can be convenient, they are not always secure. “The major hazard with public Wi-Fi is the fact that all the information you’re transferring between your computer and the computer that you’re accessing is available to everyone on the network,” explains David Maimon, Assistant Professor in the department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. “What attackers do is try to intercept the communication between your computer and the computer you’re using to try and get information from or send information to. They can get passwords, usernames, you name it.”
One third of mobile users connect to a public Wi-Fi network at least once a week. According to Cisco, almost half a billion (429 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2016. Smartphones accounted for most of that growth, followed by M2M modules. Global mobile devices and connections in 2016 grew to 8.0 billion, up from 7.6 billion in 2015.
- Think about what you’re doing. Keep in mind to not do anything that would require you to enter personal information (address, payment card, etc.) or sensitive work while using public Wi-Fi.
- Use your hotspot. If you need access to Wi-Fi and you can turn on the hotspot on your mobile device, this is always a more secure option than using a public Wi-Fi network.
- Always disable auto-connect features. Remember to turn off features on your computer or mobile devices that connect automatically to Wi-Fi. And ALWAYS log out.
- Update your software. New updates often include new security features. When you keep the software on your mobile device up to date, you’re taking extra steps to prevent cybercriminals from being able to take advantage of known vulnerabilities.
- Use different passwords. Do not use passwords that are used for any of your other accounts. Never select the option to remember the password. Even though it’s easy to have the password remembered, it could allow cybercriminals into your accounts if your device is lost or stolen.
- Websites should be encrypted. If you must enter personal information while connected to public Wi-Fi, make sure that the website you’re using is encrypted. Encrypted websites use https://. Look for https:// on every page, not just the login or welcome page. Where an encrypted option is available, you can add an “s” to the “http” address prefix and force the website to display the encrypted version.