IT Freedom Blog

Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi

by Matt Miller on

It’s 2015, WiFi access is everywhere and chances are you’re taking advantage of public WiFi in coffee shops, bookstores, and hotels. The iPass Wi-Fi Growth Map shows an increase of 271% from 2013 and an estimated 4 million business locations worldwide with WiFi hotspots, you can never be too careful when it comes to free WiFi usage.


Every year the public demand for Wi-Fi increases, whether that be from individuals on their mobile devices or businesspeople trying to connect on laptops while away from the office. With this increase in growth can come an increase in vulnerabilities for those using public WiFi. Our partners at ESET listed some security measures we think are helpful to know:

1. Check the Authenticity

  • Be wary of unidentified or unfamiliar hotspots. Especially those that do not require WPA or WPA2 passwords. Using a public WiFi can expose your computer/mobile devices to hackers and intruders of all types.

2. Look for HTTPS

  • HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, which means that information between you and the website you are on is encrypted. Make sure that when logging onto websites that will ask for sensitive information, like online banking, you’re looking for HTTPS in the address bar or even a padlock symbol like the one below.

3. Patching Before you go

  • Make sure your computer and all software is up to date before you connect to a public WiFi. Patches to your software often include security updates, and but patching on a safe network before traveling with your device will ensure you’re not only protected on public WiFi but that you don’t have to update on public WiFi

4. Avoid Accessing Sensitive Information

  • While this may seem like it doesn’t need to be said, we want to say it anyways. Even if you’re accessing a site that shows the HTTPS, if you’re looking at sensitive data for work, your online accounts, or even some emails, you may want to wait until you’re at home or work and know that you have a secure connection.

5. Manually Select Wi-Fi Networks

  • Make sure that your WiFi settings won’t just connect to any WiFi around you if you don’t want it to. By manually selecting your WiFi settings you can ensure your devices protection.

6. Use a VPN

  • A Virtual Private Network is kind of a broad topic but in short most enterprise level VPNs offer encryption with their intranet, further keeping your data safe and eliminating the need to connect to public WiFi at all.

7. Use Multi-Factor Authentication

  • Having another layer of security while logging in to different sites will help decrease attacks/intruders to your device.

8. Logout When You Leave

  • This might sound silly, but logging out will make sure you’re not leaving yourself exposed, or permanently logged into that network.

9. Turn off WiFi When Not in Use

  • Eliminate the risk of connecting to an unwanted network by turning off your WiFi when you’re not using it. A connection left unattended on public WiFi can often attract snoopers and intruders.

While we know in this day and age it’s often easier to connect to public WiFi just be aware there can be risks. There are other ways to connect, like VPN or even using your mobile device as a hotspot if your data plan allows. Just make sure that you’re alert and aware of what sites you’re going to and what information you’re giving out on a public network.

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