Chances are that sometime over your holiday travels, you’ll need to wait it out in an airport lounge or local coffee shop. The wonderful thing about modern technology is that you’ll never be bored. Simply pull out your mobile phone or laptop and shop, work, or play games to pass the time. The only thing is, have you ever thought about the dangers of doing all of these things over a shared wireless network?
Yup. Even buying shoes while you’re sitting in Starbucks can compromise your information. Here are 10 public WiFi safety tips to help you guard your data:
- Just like you would at home, it’s important to be sure that your computer’s virus or spyware protection software is up to date. If your computer has a firewall set up and turned on (many computers have this functionality automatically set to active), don’t turn it off.
- You might just assume that if you pay for the wireless connection, your information is secure. But that’s not necessarily true. The most secure wireless connections are password-protected WPA and WPA2 networks. If you don’t have to put in a password, your data is not protected.
- Save banking and bill paying for when you get home. Remember that if you’re using a public WiFi network, you are sharing your information with any other person using that same network.
- Unlike websites, apps do not necessarily use proper encryption technology. If you want to do your banking via a mobile app, use your provider’s 3G or 4G connection instead of a public wireless network.
- Only provide your information to sites that are fully encrypted. You can check the encryption of a site by looking at the URL. If there’s an https at the beginning of the address, the site is encrypted. It’s important to check every single page you visit, not just the sign in page.
- If you like to visit sites that are not encrypted, you can install browser plug-ins that will encrypt your data, including Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere for Firefox and Chrome.
- Data sharing is great for your home network, because everyone in your house can access the same music, games, and files. However, if this is turned on while accessing public WiFi, you’re sharing your data with everyone who is on the network. Turn off file sharing in public to protect all of your personal information.
- If you need to access proprietary information while “on the go,” consider installing a Virtual Private Network, which encrypts all of your communications.
- Many mobile devices allow you to turn your WiFi on so that it automatically connects to available networks. This saves you from using more data than you need too. However, automatically connecting to hotspots without your authorization can set you up for danger. Turn this setting off, and only connect to wireless networks that you can ensure are secure.
- When you’re done: turn off your WiFi, and logout of all of your accounts.
And remember, the safest connection to send important emails from or to do all of your banking is one that you can be sure is private, so don’t forget to encrypt your home network for the highest level of security.
Stay tuned with the IdentityForce blog throughout the holidays for more tips and tricks to keep your identity safe no matter how you shop or where you travel.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Wesley Fryer.