Can You Trust Public WiFi?

April 5, 2021

Can You Trust Public WiFi?

Public WiFi is made accessible almost everywhere in this day and age. Whether you're at an airport, mall, coffee shop, hotel, or restaurant, you're almost guaranteed to find some sort of 'free' WiFi made available.

The convenience of free WiFi in these public spaces is used by many, however, it may pose more security risks than most of us realize.

For those who use public networks, the trade-off for receiving free WiFi is the potential for a breach in information on which ever device is being used. There is a possibility that someone else on the same public network could gain access to your device and the systems and data operating on it.

'Free' public WiFi typically has little to no security measures in place leaving it extremely cheap to operate for network providers. So, we highly recommend avoiding the use of free public WiFi unless absolutely necessary.

If you do plan on using it, make sure to check out the important security tips we have for you below.

Secured vs Unsecured Network

What is the difference between a secured and an unsecured network?

A secured network or a private network will have a registered user account tied to it with a password in place in order to gain access. While an unsecured or public network will typically be free and accessible to anyone within range.

Although secured networks are much safer than unsecured networks, there still is the possibility of network breaches especially if the password is leaked or given out to potentially malicious actors.

Using Unsecured/Public WiFi

If you're going to use free public WiFi, make sure you follow these crucial security tips.

Avoid:

  • Accessing personal or sensitive data on unsecured networks. Especially avoid accessing banking apps, confidential work related data, and financial and government information.

  • Leaving your device unattended in a public space. This seems like common sense, but many people leave their laptops out in coffee shops to quickly run to the washroom. This opens up opportunities for someone to either steal your device or take a peek at the information stored on your device.

  • Making online payments while using public WiFi. Online shopping may not seem particularly risky to do on an unsecured network, but you'd be surprised at how much information is used for an online purchase. It may involve your name, email, birthday, address, payment information, and much more. Try to wait until you are on a private/secure network before making online payments.

Do This:

  • Use secured public networks if it's available. Many restaurants, coffee shops, and retail stores will have a network dedicated to their guests that requires a password for access. Although this does not eliminate the possibility of a breach on your device, it does limit the range and amount of users who could potentially gain access to the network.

  • Change the settings on your device to NOT connect automatically to public networks. Although this feature is convenient for gaining quick access to WiFi, you may not realize your device is using an unsecured network which opens up risks for an attack on your data.

  • Keep Bluetooth turned off unless you're using it. Bluetooth is a handy tool that allows different smart devices to connect with each other, however, cybercriminals could potentially intercept Bluetooth connectivity signals and gain access to those devices.

  • Consider using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs can encrypt transferred data through public networks which adds a strong added level of security. Alongside this, VPNs create anonymity and privacy for the user.

Whether you're using private or public networks, there is still a strong need for proper cybersecurity on your systems and devices. We provide Next-level security for computer, email, mobile, and much more!

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