6 Ways to Use Public Wi-Fi Safely
If you’re like us, you’ve chosen a coffee shop based on the free Wi-Fi. However, it’s best to be cautious. Here are six ways to make sure you’re using public Wi-Fi safely.
Turn Off Sharing
At home or the office, sharing files across phones, computers, tablets, printers, and more is super convenient. In public, you don’t want to share anything. To disable file sharing in Windows 10, go to Start, then Settings. From this list, choose System. There’s a sidebar to the left where you can select Shared Experiences. Here, you can toggle Share Across Devices to Off. In Mac, you simply have to go to System Preferences, then Sharing, and in this window just make sure all boxes are unticked.
Be Safe: Turn off sharing before connecting to public Wi-Fi.
Make Sure You Have the Right Wi-Fi
It’s easy enough to sit down and connect to something called “PublicStarbucksWiFi”. But are you sure that’s the name? It would be easy for a criminal to set up their own public WiFi, give it a name that could trick people, and then gather all kinds of data from the computers and phones of whomever connects.
Be Safe: always make sure you have the right Wi-Fi connection from the store’s employees.
Don’t Use Your Passwords Over Public Wi-Fi
You may want to log into Amazon and check on the status of an order (we’re not the only ones who do that compulsively, right?), but that’s one of those things you shouldn’t do over public Wi-Fi. Whenever you use someone else’s Wi-Fi, you’re trusting that person (or store, school, institution, etc.) to maintain their network security. You’re trusting everyone who is supposed to maintain that security with your security. If they’ve failed to install firmware updates, let old employees keep access to their systems, or don’t know how to detect an incursion, your passwords could be harvested. Do you really trust all these people?
Be Safe: If you want to do something like online banking or shopping, don’t use public Wi-Fi. In fact, if losing access to an account would be more than a mild inconvenience, don’t type that account’s password in while using public Wi-Fi.
Turn Off Wi-Fi When It’s Not In Use
When you have Wi-Fi turned on, your phone or laptop is constantly scanning for more networks it can join. This is more of a danger when it comes to your phone, since you don’t want your phone making contact with every network you pass on a given day. Also, keep in mind that you’ll save a little bit of battery life when you turn off Wi-Fi, so there’s a bit of extra incentive.
Be Safe: Turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi before you leave the house. If you’re out and need to connect to the internet, turn off your Wi-Fi when you’re done.
Forget Wi-Fi Names When You’re Done With Them
You may not want to connect to your corner coffee shop’s Wi-Fi every time you pass by. All you have to do is configure your device to forget Wi-Fi names. In Windows, there is the option to uncheck a box that says Connect Automatically when you connect to a network. There’s another way to forget a network, though. Go to the Control Panel, then Network, then Sharing Centre. You’ll see a list of networks saved to your machine. Select the one you want to forget, then select Wireless Properties, then uncheck the box that says Connect Automatically When This Network Is in Range.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences. Then select Network. Under the Wi-Fi tab, select Advanced. You can then uncheck the box that reads Remember Networks This Computer Has Joined. You may also remove networks entirely by selecting the network you want removed and then pressing the minus button underneath the network list.
On an Android device, you can look in your Wi-Fi network list, choose the network name, and then select Forget Network.
On an iOS device, first go to Settings. Then go to Wi-Fi networks. Here, look for the network you wish to forget. Choose the “i” icon next to the network name and then press Forget This Network. iOS also has a feature called Ask To Join Networks, which you should enable in the Wi-Fi networks settings.
Be Safe: Don’t let your computer or phone attempt to connect to devices without you knowing. Make sure they forget networks when you’re done.
If In Doubt, Use Your Phone as a Hotspot
If the public Wi-Fi options seem dodgy, you can always rely on your phone and service provider to create a hotspot to connect a laptop to the internet. Here’s how to do it with different types of phones.
Be Safe: You can trust your service provider, so if you have doubts about public Wi-Fi, why take the risk?
The Big Takeaway
It pays to be safe when using public Wi-Fi. Take a few simple steps and you can lower your risk.