When you go into your local coffee shop, library, or restaurant and connect to their public WiFi hotspot, you’re exposing your personal data to a variety of online threats. If you didn’t already know, public WiFi hotspots are among the most common mediums hackers use to exploit your private information. These networks are usually unprotected, and the data you send and receive while using them is unencrypted.
This is precisely what makes them a hackers’ paradise, as it doesn’t take much effort for them to start spying on what you’re doing and intercept your private data. Yes, it’s illegal, but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop someone with criminal intent from doing it.
If you frequently connect to public WiFi networks, whether it’s for work purposes or even if you only plan to browse the internet while enjoying a mid-afternoon coffee, it’s crucial to take steps to protect yourself from potential threats. With that in mind, we have made a list of three ways to deter hackers, starting with the most important and surefire method: using a VPN.
1. Use VPN Software
Okay, first, what is a VPN? This acronym stands for “Virtual Private Network.” These extremely handy applications send your data down a virtual tunnel that only you, the VPN company, and other authorized users can access.
This tunnel is encrypted, which means there are several layers of digital protection surrounding it. If hackers want to access your information, they have to break past these layers and hop onto your VPN, which is virtually impossible. The only way they can spy on you is if you download malware or share your VPN username and password with another person.
Using a WiFi VPN is the most guaranteed way to protect yourself and your information on a public network and could be the difference-maker between getting hacked and browsing the internet safely while in public spaces.
The good news is that VPNs are relatively inexpensive and run seamlessly in the background while you’re browsing the web. Just make sure you opt for a trusted provider that prioritizes security and provides a high level of encryption.
2. Use A Firewall
Anti-virus software like Norton provides a firewall to protect your device’s security on a public WiFi network. A firewall will monitor anything coming in or out of the network you’re using and block anything (such as a virus) that doesn’t pass its parameters. It’s a simple fix that will protect you and your data from hackers.
However, a firewall can itself be hacked or worked around, so make sure you keep it up to date and use other good practices, like a VPN. When it comes to your online security, more protection is better.
3. Turn Off Sharing On Your Device
When you connect to a public hotspot, a box will usually pop up on your computer, phone, or tablet and ask you if you want your device to be discoverable by others in the same network. Always choose to opt-out. That way, other people using the WiFi won’t be able to virtually see or access your device.
This isn’t a cure-all; once again, the best protection is to use this method in combination with safe practices, such as a VPN. But if you don’t have a VPN or are still shopping around for one, turning off sharing on your device is a small, quick step that will provide a thin layer of protection in the meantime.
What Else Can I Do To Protect Myself From Hackers?
Here are some hard and fast tips you can employ every day without having to download any extra software or enroll in any services:
Change Your Passwords Regularly
We are our own worst enemy. We indulge in unsafe online habits like keeping the same password for all our services, including emails and subscriptions, for months at a time. Ideally, our passwords should be changed at least once a month to keep hackers off our scent and ensure we lock any potential peeping Tom’s out of our data.
Use A Different Password For Every Account
Another unsafe online habit we all tend to use is setting up the same password for all our accounts. If a hacker decrypts this password, they will have access to all our accounts. A good practice is to have a different password for each account, whether it’s a streaming subscription or an online banking profile. This way, if one of them gets hacked via the password, the others are more likely to be safe because their logins are not the same.
Face Your Device Away From Prying Eyes
One simple way that hackers can get access to your data, regardless of whether a VPN protects it or not, is by watching your key- in your login information. Sometimes we can become too fixated and prevent more sophisticated attacks that we forgot to take care of the basics. With that in mind, when you’re sitting in a public place accessing a WiFi network, try to position your device so that it faces away from prying eyes.
All the above practices and tips are great habits to cultivate, but the one thing that will keep you safest when you’re accessing a public network is a high-quality VPN. It ensures that both your device and your data are not visible (and therefore not hackable) by unauthorized users. It is the best guarantee of internet safety, regardless of your online activities.
If you are interested in even more technology-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.