In recent years, there’s been a massive increase in businesses offering free Wi-Fi in public spaces, and it’s great news for travelling professionals and everyday people alike.

These free access points have been popping up in restaurants, airports, shops and even buses, meaning that you’re getting free Wi-Fi in more places than ever before.

No longer do you have to use up your data sending emails on the train or checking your emails when grabbing an early morning coffee. 

With a quick scan for the network and a simple login (commonly signing up to the provider’s mailing list) you are good to go! However, this freedom comes at a cost, and it’s important to understand the risks associated with using a public Wi-Fi network.

The Risks of Public Wi-Fi

All the features that make free Wi-Fi hotspots so convenient for you also make them useful for hackers, especially being able to connect to a network with little to no authentication. This allows hackers to gain unfettered access to unsecured devices on the network, and potentially intercept your data before it reaches the Wi-Fi router.

If the hacker can access the network in this way, they have access to all the information you send to the internet, from emails to security credentials. This data can then be used to access your online accounts, finances or even to steal your identity!

Hackers can also use unsecured Wi-Fi connections to distribute malware, such as Spyware, Viruses and more. Several ingenious hackers have been able to hack the connection point itself, distributing malware through pop-up windows. 

As mobile and public Wi-Fi becomes increasingly common, security issues and risks will grow, but most hackers are going after easy targets and can be avoided with a few simple precautions. Here are a few simple tips to avoid the pitfalls of public Wi-Fi:

Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) connection encrypts the data sent between your computer and other networks, making it much harder to access sensitive data like passwords, browsing history, etc. Because even basic encryption techniques take ages to decrypt (and most hackers will move on to easier targets after this), VPNs remain a valuable protection against hackers.

Use SSL Connections

Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) are standard security protocols that allow you to create encrypted links between web servers and browsers. They can be easily enabled in most web browsers by ticking the “Always Use HTTPS” option on sites that you visit often and/or require you to entre credentials. 
Most websites that require an account or credentials have an option for HTTPS, so make sure you tick it for a simple and easy way to reduce the risk of your sensitive info being accessed. 

Turn off Sharing
It may sound painfully obvious, but you should turn off sharing when connected to public networks, lest your data be given away to strangers. You can disable sharing from the Control Panel or system preference screens on your device.

Turn off Wi-Fi Unless You Need it

Even if you haven’t full connected to a network, your device may still be passively transmitting data to all networks within range.

While there are security measures to prevent this from compromising your security, this is an easily avoidable risk. Unless you need Wi-Fi, try disabling the option in your device.

This one simple change will decrease the risk of hacking and improve your batter life.

Stay Protected

Even if you follow all the tips in this guide, you’ll still run across issues from time to time.

That’s why you need to keep an up-to-date security solution on your device. These solutions come in a variety of packages and functions, so make sure to research and find a security solution that works for you. 

Sometimes, it just isn’t practical to avoid public Wi-Fi completely, so while it may be safer to pass on these hotspots, you don’t have to avoid them entirely. By following these tips and exercising caution above all else, you can minimise the risks of public Wi-Fi and keep your life running smoothly.