Connecting to a public WiFi is something of a necessity while traveling, though this type of connection can be dangerous. A public WiFi connection might mean that a hacker is lurking just around the corner waiting to steal your information. The bad news is that no public WiFi is completely secure (something to keep in mind), but you can pick and choose those public connections that bring the least amount of risk.
Step I: Choose Secured Over Unsecured
When you pull up a list of available WiFi connections, left-clicking or mousing over each connection will provide basic information about that connection. Some networks will have the label “unsecured” next to the network name – skip these if possible. Instead, look for a network that has some kind of encryption attached to it (something like “WPA..”). Just look for the words “security type” and see what’s written next to those words – a WPA encryption is best.
Step II: Keep Private Data Hidden
The great thing about a computer is that you can hide any folders you don’t want prying eyes to see. When using a Windows system, simply click on a folder icon, select the “properties” option, and then choose to “hide” any folder containing spreadsheets, passwords, or bank account details. You can also purchase a folder encryption program if you have a lot of sensitive information stored in your system.
Step III: Don’t Access Bank Accounts and Password Sites
Sometimes it’s just not possible not to access your bank account while using a private WiFi connection. If you’re traveling and you just need to know how much you’ve just spent, you’ll need to access your bank account – but, there are better ways to do this. The first option is to use a password encryption program like LastPass. Alternately, you can find a branch of your bank and ask for an account statement or just use a bank machine to print out a balance receipt. If this is not at all possible, wait until you can access a secure connection before you tap into your bank account.
Step IV: Don’t Store Sensitive Information
It can be very easy to create a folder and put a whole bunch of sensitive information inside of that folder…and then place that folder on your desktop. However, this is strongly advised against. An open folder containing all of your passwords and secret details is just an easy target. Another security faux pas is to allow your system to save all of your passwords. Sure, logging into your bank account is easier when you don’t have to remember a password, but this method also makes it simple for thieves to access your data.
In the end, a public WiFi connection should be reserved for Internet browsing in a casual manner. Make sure a connection is secure, hide sensitive folders, don’t access your bank account, and never store passwords or other information on your computer. These simple steps will help you keep those important details away from wandering eyes.