Public WiFi is great when it works, but there are definite dangers involved in using public WiFi. While most of us connect without any real thought as to what those dangers might be, the truth is that we should all be paying much closer attention. If you use public WiFi a lot, here’s what you need to know about protecting yourself.
Know What You Are Connecting To
It can seem obvious when sitting in a local Starbucks that the network you want to connect to is called ‘Starbucks’ or ‘Free WiFi,’ but you might be a victim if you just connect to the WiFi that looks like the right one. Often, hackers will set up a free WiFi connection in a public place, give that connection an obvious name, and then hack into computers that use that connection. Want a better game plan?
Ask the staff at the coffee shop what the WiFi connection is called, and only connect to that option. If there’s no staff (this can happen if you are in a park or other outdoor area), think twice before connecting, or use your phone as a hotspot.
Set Up the Right Barriers
Windows devices automatically share files unless you turn file sharing off. If you are connecting to a public WiFi space, you’ll want to turn off that filing sharing option. To do this, go to the ‘Control Panel,’ then select ‘Network,’ then ‘Sharing Center,’ and finally ‘Change Advanced Sharing Settings.’ From there, shut off the file sharing option by choosing this option.
If you are using a Mac, you’ll still want to shut off file sharing by going to ‘System Preferences,’ and then shutting off the ‘Sharing’ option. It’s also never a bad idea to turn on a firewall no matter what kind of system you are using. A firewall could be your best protection against hackers.
Some Things Haven’t Changed
Remember a few years ago when everyone was warned to look for that little ‘lock’ symbol whenever using any kind of website? Well, that hasn’t changed. You should still look for the lock symbol when using any kind of site checkout system, and you should always look for the ‘https://’ designation. You can find both of these in the main site bar on any page. If you don’t see the https or a lock symbol, you could be looking at a false site.
It can be really easy to ignore the ‘Update?’ button that pops up whenever you log into your computer, but not updating leaves your system open for hacks. Make sure that you update as much as needed, but don’t do any updating on a public WiFi system. Instead, update when you are in the safety and comfort of your own home with your own home network system. This way, you can be sure that the updates will be installed without hackers messing around with that installation.
Is Your Two-Step ID Set Up?
Sure, it’s a real pain to get back into Gmail once you have been locked out, and this happens often when it comes to two-step authentication. But, setting up that good old two step is the fastest way to make sure that the sites and apps you do use are seriously protected. Take the time to set up those extra steps - you won’t regret it.