Smart Surfing: Protecting Your Privacy on Public WiFi Networks

By Martha HuizengaJuly 18, 2016Internet, WiFi

Protecting Your Privacy on Public WiFi Networks - DC Access

When DC Access started offering Wireless Internet (WiFi) back in 2003, public WiFi hotspots were few and far between. Today, there are hotspots around every corner – at coffee shops and restaurants, airports and hotels, schools and libraries, parks and museums.

Smartphones take advantage of the proliferation of public WiFi networks by allowing you to connect to the Internet using WiFi rather than your provider’s 3G or 4G network – which can be a great way to avoid overages on your data plan. But it also means that many more people are connecting to public WiFi networks on a daily basis, often without thinking about privacy and security.

If you have WiFi at home or at work, it’s easy to fall into the habit of hopping on WiFi in other locations and not adjusting your settings or behavior.

DC Access recommends following these steps to keep your data secure:

  • In order to keep your data secure when using public wifi, only send information to sites that are encrypted. Encryption scrambles the message you send over the internet so it cannot be read and understood by prying eyes. You can determine if a website is encrypted if the URL starts with “https” – the “s” stands for secure.
  • What about apps? Unfortunately many mobile apps do not adequately encrypt data. We recommend using a secure wireless network if you are transmitting personal data to and from an app.
  • Most mobile hotspots are not secure – do not assume that public wifi is secure.
  • Always log-off of an account when you are finished working; leaving accounts open on public wifi leaves your data more susceptible to theft.
  • Consider using a VPN (virtual private network) if you often rely on public wifi. VPNs encrypt the information transmitted between your computer and the internet.
  • Change the settings on your devices – including smartphones – so that they don’t automatically connect to public WiFi networks. Connect to public networks manually, or set your devices to request approval before connecting. That way you can select known, trusted networks and avoid the possibility of inadvertently connecting to “honeypots” – malicious Wifi networks set up by hackers who are counting on users to let their guard down.
  • You also want to turn off file sharing, which makes you vulnerable to hackers and snoopers when you connect to a public network.

Follow these tips to help keep your data secure over public WiFi.
Additional information can be found at www.onguardonline.gov

Thanks to blog contributor Amy Southerland