1. Connect with caution
Be extremely cautious when using public wi-fi hotspots. Internet cafes, in particular, are favourite sites where hackers can easily set up networks with names such as “Free Wi-Fi Hotspot” or “Secure Wi-Fi Hotspot” in an attempt to trick unsuspecting users into divulging pesonal information. Before you connect, confirm the network name with a member of staff at your location.
2. Don’t be reckless
Public Wi-Fi hotspots want to allow as many people as possible to connect, so they don’t use any encryption or security, which makes it quick and easy to sign in. Convenient but risky.
Beware of the types of information you might send over an unsecured network and ALWAYS assume that what you send will be read by a somebody else monitoring the connection.
Only ever log into email, bank and credit card accounts, when you’re on a known, secure network.
If you must access sensitive or financial data, use only sites with addresses that start with “https”. While not perfect, these sites are very much more secure than the basic “http” websites. Please note that you can tell that you’re on a secure page when a padlock icon appears in a corner of your browser window.
3. Use your VPN
It is extremely important to use a VPN when connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Even if you think it is already secure. The VPN will encrypt your data and prevent digital eavesdropping, packet sniffing and data interception. Any body looking at the data on the router will then only see encrypted information, and will not be able to steal any of your personal information.
4. Never disable your firewall
Many computers have a preset firewall to prevent easy outside intrusion by hackers. If you have one, don’t turn it off, particularly in a public place. If you don’t have a firewall on your PC or laptop it is easy to install a third-party firewall from providers such as McAfee, Norton, Zone Labs and Kaspersky.
5. Heed warnings
Error codes will pop up from time to time, and you should watch for those that mention a certificate being expired or invalid. If you see this warning, it may mean a hacker is intercepting your data. If you see this message, try manually typing the website address into your browser address bar. If the message reappears, shut down your computer and avoid using that WiFi hotspot. The network may have been hacked.
6. Face the crowd
It may sound paranoid, but “shoulder surfers” do exist. These are the people who casually pass by and try to catch a glimpse of your email address, the document you have on screen, or your password. Always be aware of who is watching you and don’t turn your back in a crowded location. CCTV cameras can also see your screen and everything that you are typing, so please be aware of where the cameras are situated.
7. Secure your folders
You computer will have public folders — usually shared music, photos and video locations — all are easily available to anyone on the same network. Don’t keep anything personal in those folders.
8. Narrow the window of opportunity
The longer you are connected to an unsecured network, the less safe you are. Prepare messages offline and be disciplined when surfing the internet in public. Once signed on, do your work, send you mails, visit the sites you planned to visit, and get signed out as quickly as possible.
9. Delete previous networks
Your computer maintains a record of every network it connects to. This speeds up connectivity on future visits. saving you from logging on again.Unfortunately, the bad guys can create networks with similar names that trick your computer into signing onto a dangerous site. So particularly after using a public site, you need to delete the networks you no longer need.
10. Update your security
Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs up to date. These protect you against many, but not all, cyber attacks.
The single most important step to take when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot is to use a VPN. Our VPN is quick and easy to install, and starts from just £4 per month. A small price to pay for internet security on the move.