Most smartphone, tablet, and computer owners generally have their own Wi-Fi network set up in the safety of their homes, locked behind a secure password.
But what happens when users venture outside of their personal Wi-Fi range, and connect to a public network? The 11Alive Help Desk has nine tips for users to keep their information safe while surfing the web in public.
The digital innovation industry website Mashable suggests the following tips, and stresses the importance of reviewing your device settings when connecting to an unknown, public network. With hotspots popping up in your favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or airport terminal, be advised of the information you could be sharing on these networks.
Turn Off Sharing
Unbeknown to many users, sharing options that users allow within the confines of a private network often carry into public Wi-Fi networks unless a device's sharing feature is disabled.
Set Up a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Using a VPN is considered the most secure way to browse a public network. A VPN routes traffic through a secure network when connected to public Wi-Fi.
VPN providers are available for free, or for a small monthly cost. Paying for a VPN service allows users to customize their bandwidth options and other settings, all while protecting personal information.
Disable Options that Automatically Connect Devices to Wi-Fi Hotspots
Settings on your device may automatically connect to an available Wi-Fi hotspot, opening the device up to a potentially malicious network. Hackers can easily enable networks so that once unsuspecting users connect to them, any personal information stored on a device is widely available. Check the settings on each of your devices, and disable the ability for them to connect to networks automatically.
Use a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
Websites transfer content into plain text, giving hackers easy access to the network connection. Many websites now use SSL to encrypt data, but users cannot always rely on websites to do so.
To create an encrypted connection on your device, Mashable suggests the extension SSL Everywhere. This plugin enables website connections to be secured, ensuring that any data that may be transferred while browsing is safe from hackers.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication gathers two pieces of information from users to log into an account. On certain programs, such as Gmail, a password and code will be sent to your cellphone after completing prompts.
Some websites support two-factor authentication, meaning that if a public network you are using is breached by a hacker, they won't have access to your account.
Confirm the Network Name
If you are in a public shop, it is wise to verify with an employee the correct name of their public Wi-Fi network. Hackers can easily set up fake networks that may sound as though they belong to a specific shop, but in fact are malicious.
There are multiple secure password programs available to store on your devices keeping personal passwords safe and secure. Research options and review your choices to see which program best fits your needs.
Mashable suggests two free programs, KeePass and LastPass, which store information in various locations safely.
Turn Firewall On
While a firewall won't provide complete protection, it is safe to have it on to monitor all connections made to a device. The firewall settings vary from device to device, so review each setting to keep them safe.
Run Anti-Virus Software
If active anti-virus software is downloaded and up-to-date on your computer or tablet, pay attention to alerts that are displayed from the software. If malicious behavior is suspected, an alert will quickly notify you of its existence.