For many, the ease of utilizing a public Wi-Fi network to access the Internet while at the coffee shop or at the airport is appealing. While convenient, users of public Wi-Fi networks should take extra precautions to protect their devices and personal information, such as online bank accounts or passwords, which can be collected without their knowledge.
Popular businesses and coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi access as a perk for its customers. Connecting to open networks without checking their origins makes it easy for customers to mistake a hacker’s fake hotspot, disguised to resemble a business’s hotspot, for the real thing. Avoid this trap by asking an employee for the name or SSID (Service Set Identifier) of the network or by using a personal mobile hotspot. Do not connect to supposedly “free” networks that ask for a credit card payment or other personal information.
For business travelers especially, public Wi-Fi in airports makes it easy to stay connected to the office while on the road. However, this could leave a device vulnerable to hackers and other intrusions in the future if it automatically reconnects to the network. After using a public network, users should secure their device by setting it to “forget” any networks to which it was previously connected and turn off the device’s Wi-Fi connection.
Also, make sure antivirus and antispyware software is up to date on all of devices, including smartphones. By downloading apps such as Verizon Mobile Security and Lookout, users can help protect themselves from malicious activities. Alternately, staying on top of the latest mobile software updates minimizes vulnerabilities that can be exploited when a consumers use their smartphones or tablets on a public wireless network.
Public Wi-Fi connections are a convenient tool, but it’s important for consumers to take steps to protect their data and devices when using these networks. For more information on using public Wi-Fi safely, check out these tips from USA Today.