How to keep your online information secure and theft-free while using public Wi-Fi

We connect to our computers, tablets, phones, and technologies on all kinds of networks: both public and private. We are offered countless options for connection to public Wi-Fi to work from coffee shops, check social media from restaurants or malls, or connect to Wi-Fi from a hotel or another public-facing business. With all these tempting options for connection, how can you safeguard your information and keep your online information theft-free?

Opt for a semi-open network instead of completely open, or create a hotspot

Semi-open networks require the user to enter an email address or to click through their terms and services before allowing access. Due to the extra security to weed out the internet bots, these semi-open networks are generally more secure than those that allow instant connection, and often boast a quicker network speed due to less widespread public usage. Alternatively, using your phone to create a hotspot to connect your laptop or another mobile device to the internet is the safest way to access the internet in public. If you are able to create a hotspot, you can connect to the internet without fear of being compromised.

Use a VPN service

What is a VPN and how can it help you? VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. There are several types of VPNs which take your outgoing data and channel it through an encrypted tunnel or a set of proxy servers to hide the traffic from you to the internet, making it appear as though the VPN is initiating the exchange rather than you. Encrypted data coming from the VPN can’t be read by third parties trying to steal your information, which gives your connection more security than should you proceed without using a VPN. As an added bonus, many VPN providers also include anti-malware or anti-spyware in their software for extra protection.

Enable your browser’s Firewall

As a start, always make sure that your operating system is up-to-date, thereby providing you with base security. Although a VPN will successfully block most unwanted attention while you browse the internet, a backup protective service is the built-in Firewall in the browser you use. Turning the Firewall on can help to prevent third parties from spying on your data, as it acts as a barrier between a trusted network and an untrusted network. While turning on your Firewall, you can also select which applications can access your information by clicking either the “advanced” or “allow a program or feature” options.

Use websites that have HTTPS or SSL connections

Using sites that are hosted on an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), which supports an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection, can provide extra security while you use public Wi-Fi. You will notice a green lock icon appear in the URL bar of the browser you are using, which indicates that the interactions between the site and your browser are encrypted and secured over an unsecure network, such as public Wi-Fi.

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Chris San Filippo 

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