Last Updated on September 10, 2021
The internet is without a doubt one of the greatest inventions of this century, perhaps the millennium. It has vastly transformed the way we live, and the way we conduct our day-to-day activities. Furthermore, it has completely transformed how the economy functions, and how global business operates. There is no question that the internet, and with it the digital transformation, will be a driver and catalyst for innovation and change in every sector of the economy in the foreseeable future.
Internet market penetration is growing each day, and soon practically every individual on Earth will have access to an internet connection. Without the internet, a thriving, fast economy would not be possible, and we would not have access to the practicalities that it offers or the vast knowledge base that is available via a simple online search. Who knows where we would be without it, or what the world would look like.
Now, as far as practicality is concerned, nothing beats the benefit of having access to the internet on the go. Specifically, we are talking about public Wi-Fi hotspots. Not only is it a beneficial service, but something that everyone today expects as standard. Having access to Wi-Fi has become almost as important as having electricity around us and air to breathe these days.
In fact, any location without a Wi-Fi connection will be met with frustration and confusion from customers and visitors. Public Wi-Fi, although the concept hasn’t existed for very long (especially high-speed municipal Wi-Fi), is present almost everywhere. It is now available in a wide range of locations including from your local shop or bistro, to the airports, hotels, and public transportation utilized by the vast majority of the population.
Public Wi-Fi is Not As Safe As You Think
On the other hand, what about if we peer into the negatives of public Wi-Fi? Yes, there are several things everyone should know about being secure while using public Wi-Fi. This applies also to travelers. Browse the internet safely while you travel, and you will avoid a host of potential issues that can reflect on the security of your data and even your personal safety. To look at these issues properly, as well as suggest proper solutions, let’s first deconstruct public Wi-Fi and secondly look at expert recommendations that will save you many future headaches.
First of all, it is important to understand the types of public Wi-Fi networks, and then what can happen if you connect to the wrong one.
The Types of Public Wi-Fi Networks
It is important to distinguish between two types of public Wi-Fi networks. Namely, a public Wi-Fi network can either be secured or unsecured. Distinguishing between these two is extremely important if you are a user of public Wi-Fi (which you most probably are.) A secured public Wi-Fi network concerns a network that has its legal terms, security certifications, and in most cases will require you to register an account before being able to connect.
In other cases, such networks might require a payment or a special code to be accessed. As for unsecured networks, as you might have gathered already these are the type of networks that are the polar opposite of a secured network. An unsecured network is the vast majority of public Wi-Fi spots out there.
These networks carry zero security features and can be connected to by anyone within range. As you can probably deduce on your own given the information above, an unsecured network can be quite dangerous (not to mention extremely slow and unreliable.)
What Can Happen on an Unsecured Public Wi-Fi Network?
There are several things, called cybersecurity risks, that can take place if you are not careful with public Wi-Fi (for instance if you connect to an unsecured network.) Here is a list of real-life cybersecurity risk scenarios that can affect you by using public Wi-Fi;
- Your connection can easily be spied on
- Your connection can be snooped and sniffed
- Your data can be breached
- Your sensitive credentials can be stolen
- You can be a victim of a phishing scam
- You can be a victim to man-in-the-middle attacks
- Malware can be installed on your device
- You might be connecting to a malicious hotspot
Today, browsing the internet is like wading through a treacherous rainforest. The fact that the internet has grown so large, and is largely out of control and not monitored well enough, means that you could fall victim to the above issues (and many others) if you are not well-prepared with good cyber-hygiene.
How to Use Public Wi-Fi Safely
Now that we have distinguished between a secured and unsecured network, as well as looked at the dangers, we can take a glance at other expert tips that relate to public Wi-Fi in general e.g public Wi-Fi best practices for you to keep in mind. These are;
- Most often, it is smart to avoid public Wi-Fi entirely and use your mobile data instead
- As per the above, do prefer a secured network over an unsecured network
- Avoid connecting to any Wi-Fi that doesn’t require a login or registration, at the very least
- Install an HTTPS-everywhere extension for your browser (s)
- Definitely use a premium Virtual Private Network, or VPN, if you must connect to public Wi-Fi
- Never visit websites that do not have an HTTPS extension in the address bar of your browser
- Never use public Wi-Fi for your banking or medical needs, or anything sensitive
- Always log out of your accounts when done
- Prevent your devices from automatically connecting to the first network it finds
If this is too much information to take in, here’s an even more succinct list with the bare essentials when connecting to public Wi-Fi;
- If you must use public Wi-Fi, never do so without running a premium VPN in the background to protect you
- Never share sensitive information on any public Wi-Fi service
- Prefer mobile data instead of a public Wi-Fi hotspot
Public Wi-Fi is a fantastic modern convenience, but just like anything else in the IT world that is used by all of us, it is always good to acquire expert knowledge about the security aspects and responsible use.