Why you Should Never Connect to Free Wi-Fi

Nowadays, it’s impossible to avoid the Internet.  Back in the ’80s and ’90s, you could just leave your house to avoid the chaotic shenanigans the Internet could cause.  But the Internet has evolved.  It has become omnipresent, unavoidable.  IF you left your house, you still would have, at least, a 3G connection to stay connected.

This evolution isn’t a bad thing.  We don’t need to sit at one home at one desk to do one thing.  Versatility is the new trend.  Want to get out of the house but need to write a report?  Take your laptop to the local coffee shop or visit the library.  But even though this is a good evolution of the Internet, there is one caveat: security.

Security is an inevitable issue that always accompanies technology. Free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s is no different.  According to studies, up to three quarters of people would access their personal e-mail on these public networks.  On these networks, you’re more vulnerable than you are ever at home, but how?  What makes public Wi-Fi so dangerous?

Your phone is a portable vulnerability

Most of us carry our phones with us all day.  When we go to any public area, it’s not uncommon for us to connect our phones to whatever network they have set up. I mean, who wants to go without Internet?

The only issue with this is that we are making our phones vulnerable to any cyber-attack on the network.  Of course, this could happen on any device connected to the network, but our phones have a lot of information about us.  Your e-mail may be set up on it, your contacts and phone numbers, texts, payment information, the list goes on and on.  This isn’t something you think about as you connect the phone to the network, but it’s something to start thinking about.  You’re creating an easy backdoor into your information.  If this happens, you have no security.  Your passcode is only good for physical hacking, so that won’t work, and your phone won’t exactly be able to notify you that someone is currently taking your information.  But there are ways to protect your information on your phone.  Using these techniques, you won’t need to be paranoid about your data being stolen.

VPNs protect you from data interception

VPN can be an easy go-to solution whenever someone mentions security, and for good reason.  With a VPN, your data is encrypted from start to finish.

To put it into perspective, your data is unencrypted when travelling on a public network.  This means that anyone can see and intercept your data with the right equipment.  VPNs are made to give your data a “cover” to hide from viewers.  These viewers include the ISP of the network, online hackers, and anyone in your proximity planning a Man-In-The-Middle attack.  Quality VPNs usually require payment, but it’s more than worth it, and there are multitudes of VPNs on iPhones and Android phones alike, so there is no worry about finding a good VPN.

Don’t make transactions on public Wi-Fi

You’re sitting at the coffee shop and see a pair of shoes you want on Amazon. Wait – Performing any sort of transactions is extremely dangerous on a public network, especially if your phone has a credit card saved on it.  If anyone was intercepting data, this type of information would be very alluring to the hacker. Don’t take the risk, check your e-bank account and make payments at home. It’s for the best.

When done, disable Wi-Fi

If you really must use free Wi-Fi, use it with a VPN. And when you’re done, leave the unsecured network. This is a very simple solution, and all it takes is a couple of taps.  When you’re done viewing whatever you need to, simply turn off the wi-fi.  This isn’t a solution most people want to hear, but it is the most surefire way to keep you and your phone secure.

Also, if you do travel a lot and want to keep yourself secure, try to obtain a 3G/4G/LTE connection.  This way, you do not need to worry about public networks and can still have an internet connection.

Visit sites with HTTPS

You’ve seen it before; that little extension in your address bar is an indicator of the websites function and security. HTTPS is an internet protocol that automatically encrypts data to keep it secure.  This doesn’t offer as much protection as a VPN, but it’s better than nothing.  When on a public network, only visit websites with this protocol enabled.

The Internet can be a scary place.  From hackers to multiple security vulnerabilities, it’s a wonder that most don’t have their information stolen every day.

Practising good security tips is essential, especially when out in public.  Also, your phone is probably the most data-sensitive device you have in your arsenal, so don’t treat it like it’s protected.  Always assume it’s vulnerable, so you can do all you can to keep your data protected.  Do your best to make these hackers frustrated!