How to Protect Your Privacy on Public WiFi Networks?

by Julie Splinters - -
12

Question

Issue: How to Protect Your Privacy on Public WiFi Networks?

Hello. I have recently seen a movie about Snowden it really changed my view on online privacy. I am often visiting a cafe next to me and using WiFi provided there to do several tasks for work and random browsing as well. I also found out that hackers could break into my computer with the help of public WiFi. Can you give me any tips on how to better protect myself while using a public WiFi connection? Much appreciated.

Solved Answer

WiFi[1] network is definitely amazing, as it allows us to connect to the internet without the need of using any cables, which makes portable browsing effortless. The weird sounds of dial-ups and similar outdated technologies are the things of the past, and we are continually greeting new technology that helps us to browse faster and more comfortable.

We merely connect our mobile phone, personal computer, laptop, tablet, and similar devices to WiFi using a router[2] that is tied to a specific location. While private connections are used for home or office networks, public ones are dominant in cafes, restaurants, bars, train stations, hair salons, etc.

If we are using a secured WiFi in our homes, office or a friend’s apartment, we are prompted to enter the password, which immediately arises the feeling of safety. However, public WiFs also pose certain risks, mainly related to privacy.

stay safe on public Wi-Fi network

While the no password policy allows everybody to connect to the WiFi quickly, it also enables attacks to illegally enter devices and perform malicious tasks, such as installing malware or stealing sensitive information like usernames, passwords, banking details, etc. Such data leak can result in severe consequences, namely identity[3] theft or stolen money from the bank account.

When you access the website, including online banking, social network or email, while connected to the public WiFi network, the login information goes through the router and can be, therefore, stolen. Obviously, nobody would like their personal data to be disclosed in such a way, so we created a guide that will help you protect your privacy on public WiFi networks.

Below you will find several tips that can help you with your online safety while using public WiFi. Alternatively, you can stop using public connections altogether, which is also not an optimal choice.

Tip 1. Use a secure sites only

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It’s not advisable to perform important operations, such as money transactions or bank balance checking while connected to the public Wi-Fi. Hackers are eager to receive credit card details, so don’t give them a chance to scam you. To prevent this from happening, use a specialized secure web browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera) and make sure to visit a secure website (marked with a padlock icon at the left side of the URL address).  Besides, make sure that the website’s name starts with the https:// because S stands for secure socket layer.

Use secure connection

Tip 2. Turn Off Public Network sharing

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Network sharing is a handy service as it allows resource sharing with the printer, public folders, etc. However, it’s advisable to use network sharing only when connected to work or home network. To turn off public network sharing, perform these steps:

  • Type in Control Panel into the search box and hit Enter
  • Go to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing center and click Change Advanced Sharing Settings
  • Select Public profile and turn off File Sharing, Network Discovery, and Public Folder Sharing

Turn off public network sharing

Tip 3. Enable Firewall

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Before connecting to the public WiFi, make sure that the Windows Firewall is enabled.

  • Type in Firewall into the search box and press Enter
  • Click on the Turn Windows Firewall on or off
  • If Windows Firewall is disabled, make sure to enable it

Enable Firewall

Tip 4. Use a Virtual Private Network

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In other words, use a private browsing or a so-called incognito mode. Private browsing mode prevents the current browsing activity from being remembered in the browsing history. On top of that, it may hide the real-time browsing information from hackers. To protect your IP fully use a VPN[4] hiding software as an addition.

Tip 5. Make sure to use a professional anti-virus

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Windows 10 OS has an inbuilt antivirus, Windows Defender. It features a high virus detection and prevention rate and is considered to be sufficient for protecting the system. If you are using another Windows version, select a reliable anti-virus, which is tested by security experts and has an updated virus database. In addition to the primary protection software, we would recommend using a second option anti-virus, for example, Reimage.

Tip 6. Install all available Windows Updates

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An outdated operating system is more vulnerable, especially if it lacks crucial security updates that Microsoft releases regularly. Therefore, if you presume that in the near future you will have to use a public Wi-Fi network, especially for some important activities to perform, make sure to install all available updates using Windows Update service:

  • Type in Update into the search box
  • Select Check for Updates and then click on Check for Updates
  • Windows will download and install the new updates automatically
  • Do not forget to restart your machine

Update Windows

Tip 7. Do not get tricked by intriguing pop-ups

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You must have heard about potentially dangerous or malicious pop-ups that may lead to malware infection or personal information leakage. Be careful with the following notifications:

  • Prize giveaways;
  • Online surveys;
  • Fake error messages or BSOD;
  • Offers to use a “secured” web browser or toolbar;
  • Security warnings that contain a telephone number (tech-support-scam);
  • Online virus scanners.

Tip 8. Create a strong password

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If you are going to access the websites that require the login information (e.g., online banking, social network, email, etc.) make sure to set a password that would be difficult to guess. This way, you will minimize the risk to provide hackers easy access to your personal information.

We hope that using these tips, you will be able to protect your privacy on public WiFi networks much better.

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About the author

Julie Splinters - Computer optimization specialist

When it comes to computer optimization, Julie Splinters is the expert. Whether it is a slow smartphone, Windows, Mac or Linux operating system, she will find a solution within minutes.

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