Public Wi-Fi networks are those that don’t have a password or that even if they do, it’s shared with so many people that it’s almost as if it didn’t. It’s not uncommon to connect to a public Wi-Fi network at some point in our everyday life. After all, they’re present in most academic environments and you can always find some of them at places like coffee shops, airports, public spaces like squares and even public transportation sometimes.
They’re a nice way to attract people in this smartphone era where everyone is struggling to ease some load out of their mobile data plans. However, public networks pose several security risks to their users and most of these aren’t even aware of the scale of this issue and the consequences it can have.
Why Public Networks Aren’t Safe
There are many reasons why it isn’t recommended you use public networks without taking some degree of protection first. To begin with, connections without encryption (not password-protected), pretty much expose all the data you share over them to anyone within a reasonable range.Anyone with the right tools can monitor all your internet traffic with the same amount of effort it takes them to connect to the network. Besides this, unprotected connections make your devices vulnerable to more complex attacks from anyone on the same network. These, could potentially bypass any gadget’s security and leak sensitive data. Public Wi-Fi networks are basically one of the best ways to risk your privacy.
How You Can Protect Yourself
There are several measures you can take to strengthen your security while on a public Wi-Fi network. For instance, you could restrain your navigation to encrypted sites only, this is those sites with a URL that starts with https instead of http. This is a way to prevent your traffic from being intercepted and used to someone else’s advantage.
However, you can’t control the level of security of the websites accessed by apps that aren’t your browser. This discards social media and pretty much any other internet-enabled app that doesn’t encrypt communications by default. For this reason, we recommend you to adopt a VPN in your everyday navigation.
VPNs are services that encrypt all communications that come from your device and reroute your online traffic through a network of servers to hide the sites you visit from prying eyes. They are pretty simple to use and don’t cost much money, making them one of the preferred privacy solutions of security adepts and common internet users alike.
To use them, all you have to do is pick a VPN service online and download a software client that will be in charge of connecting you to the network and encrypting your traffic. Not all VPN services are the equally good, so we recommend you use either ExpressVPN, IPVanish, PureVPN, VyprVPN or NordVPN, which are our favorites. If you prefer to try a VPN for free, you can check this top free vpn services for 2017. Just don’t forget to turn them on whenever you’re on a public network and you’ll surely be protected from eavesdroppers.
Bram Jansen is an online privacy expert. He’s been helping businesses secure their information
online. He offers tips and advices to protect companies from common problems and to guarantee they are protecting their online and social media privacy. When not working, Bram indulges in kayaking and mountain climbing.