Tips For Wi-Fi Hotspot Security

Wi-Fi hotspots are a haven for hackers. It is understandably tempting and addictive to use a public Wi-Fi hotspot, but are you aware of the dangers involved?  Identity theft and data loss are some of the nightmares you may subject yourself into if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Here are some Wi-Fi hotspot security tips for you to apply and connect safely.

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Pick a Secure Network

When you are searching for a Wi-Fi hotspot to log into, the first security tip is to pick one that has locked you out, to begin with. That’s right. A secure network has a lock icon (small padlock) which means you can’t get access. Unsecured networks, on the other hand, don’t have that lock icon or the word ‘secured’ which appears on a Windows laptop. If you are using an iPhone, you will get a "Security Recommendation" the moment you log into an unsecured network.

Some networks, however, will be secure but still lack the lock icon. This is because they use a "walled garden" security, where you log in using a browser for access.  The login you use for such networks is provided by the hotspot which you can always obtain from the hotel front desk when checking in. This way, you will know you are in a secure network.

Use a VPN

This goes without saying; you need a virtual private network (VPN) when using a public network. This might sound like an old tip, but in this era of hackers, one cannot be too careful. It is quite unfortunate that over 60% of users don’t have a VPN each time they use a public network, thereby unwittingly compromising their data security.

A VPN creates a private tunnel between your device and the VPN server on the other end, encrypting your traffic from hawk-eyed hackers, your Internet Service Provider, government agencies, or even the hotspot operator themselves. Find the best VPN that works for you, pay, and put it in all your devices that use a public Wi-Fi. You will not regret.

Avoid Public Computers

This is more of a behavioral tip than a technical one, but a very important one as well. Avoid using public computers prepared at hotspots whenever possible. This is because there is no way of telling what applications may be installed on that computer.

A public computer may be installed with a key-logger program or infected with a worm or a virus. It is best if you avoid risking your valuable personal data for easy access. The dangers by far outweigh the free Wi-Fi. If you must connect to the public Wi-Fi, then its advisable for you to bring your device along. It is safer that way.

Subscribe to Hotspots

You will be subject to a monthly fee, which might be a bit costly, but it is worth your every penny. There are several names in the Wi-Fi subscription services, among them Boingo and Gogo, who provide hotspots specifically for planes in flight. Once you pay the monthly fee, you find their certified hotspots. Such hotspots are a lot harder to be run by malicious people further enhancing data security.

Avoid keying in Personal Data

Another behavioral tip; avoid performing tasks that require you to use personal passwords when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Such tasks include using your credit card, accessing your bank account, or paying your bills. Filing your tax returns using a public hotspot? Don’t even think about it.

Such transactions should only be performed on secure networks or your home network. On your home network, you are less likely to be targeted by snoops when using your home network because you will already have secured it, right?

Do Not Use Your Passwords

Understandably, there are a lot of passwords to remember, and you may enter one or two using a public Wi-Fi. However, it is best if you avoided using any of your passwords on a public network because if the network has been compromised and some snoop is pulling down data, you are at high risk of losing data.

That’s where a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane will come in handy. They will not only encrypt your passwords for you, but they will also store them. If you use your passwords, make sure the sites you are using are on a two-factor authentication set up.

Keep Your OS and Apps Updated

It is annoying to update your Operating system (OS), yet it is very important. Do not neglect updating your OS because you are a Mac or iPhone user that has been lulled into an untrue sense of security. Updating your OS is a serious business that patches up some security holes that would otherwise make your data vulnerable when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Everyone will know when a new OS becomes available but failing to update yours makes your device a low hanging fruit that can be easily targeted by opportunistic hackers.

In case you are using a smartphone, updating your mobile apps is equally important. Browser apps are especially targeted, but anything that goes online is a target and could be used to compromise the safety of your data.

Keep your data safe when using public Wi-Fi hotspot by following the above tips.

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