Last Updated 11 July 2019
Within the confines of our own homes, browsing through the internet is as easy as ABC.
As long as our devices are connected to a home Wi-Fi, most of us spend little to no time driving our minds in a frenzy over how much network traffic our browsing activities occupy, or whether or not we face any immediate threats from hackers.
Despite the ease that our household Wi-Fi has to offer, there are fewer things in life as seductive as a free public Wi-Fi network.
Who can deny the wave of euphoria that passes over when you get the notification for a free Wi-Fi, as you’re roaming through aisles and aisles of clothing?
Despite the ease that household Wi-Fi networks have brought in the lives of millions, many people, for a multitude of reasons, flock towards free Wi-Fi networks, as a recent survey by ITRC revealed.
However, as responsible consumers of technology, it is our duty to be aware of the perils that haunt public Wi-Fi networks, and how to get rid of them.
Mentioned below in this article are 5 ways through which users can enjoy browsing through a free Wi-Fi network, without compromising on safety, which include:
- Verify the network
- Use a VPN
- Visit HTTPS websites only
- Use a Firewall
- Use an antivirus software
1- Verify the Wi-Fi network
When it comes to using public Wi-Fi networks, try to verify the connection as much as you can.
An easy way of doing this is if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network at a local business (café, shop, etc.). All you need to do is ask an employee of the company whether the internet link is legit or not.
Another way in which you can verify the legitimacy of the network is by remembering the name of the Wi-Fi network, along with asking for its offering IP address.
To someone who isn’t in the know-how of how important safety is in the realms of technology, this step might seem a little unnecessary. That could not be further away from the truth.
When you use the standard Wi-Fi at home, you make sure that you know who your ISP is, and where your Wi-Fi network has originated from.
Similarly, whenever a user connects to a public Wi-Fi, he or she needs to make sure that the connection is authentication, to prevent the risk of any potential hacker slipping in and gaining access to your sensitive information.
Another crucial piece of advice that public Wi-Fi users need to keep in mind the next time they connect to free Wi-Fi is to turn off file sharing.
The reason for turning off file sharing is pretty apparent- no one wants to deal with the havoc caused when a hacker has sensitive data and uses it against you.
2- Use a VPN:
Among the arsenal of tools available that claim to provide network security, perhaps the most useful one is a VPN.
A Virtual Private Network, which is abbreviated as a VPN, is the most secure tool that helps maintain people’s privacy while logged onto a public Wi-Fi network.
A VPN works by encrypting your network traffic and act as a tunnel between your server and client, hence making all the data that passes through the network unavailable to hackers.
Another added benefit of using a VPN is that it hides your original IP address by using an IP address that traces back to another location.
So, if you’re using a free public Wi-Fi from your actual location in the US, a VPN will make sure that a hacker or any third party source sees the area as Germany or some other foreign land.
However, while installing a VPN onto their devices users need to be careful. More often than not, free VPN services lack many of the essential features that their paid counterparts offer, rendering devices susceptible to various vulnerabilities, such as malware, etc.
However, to aid you in your quest to browse safely on a public Wi-Fi network, mentioned below are some of the best VPNs available
3- Visit HTTPS websites only:
If you’ve been spending the better half of your life under a rock, you might be wondering what an HTTPS website is-well; you need to look no further.
To put it, if you look at the beginning of every websites URL, you will find either the words HTTP or HTTPS there.
HTTPS websites make sure that any information that your browser needs to send or receives is encrypted, unlike the standard HTTP site.
Using an HTTPS website while browsing the net through a public Wi-Fi is especially essential since it serves as a significant barrier between your information and any potential hacking threat that you might face.
Another advantage of taking caution to visit HTTPS sites only on a free Wi-Fi network is that it helps those users who don’t have access to a VPN.
To make sure that you’re accessing safe sites, users need to search for an HTTPS at the beginning of a websites address, which makes it safe to browse through and any data that passes through these type of sites is safe from manipulation or espionage.
However, there are several web browser extensions that are free for download which automatically converts any HTTP site to HTTPS.
4- Use a Firewall:
One of the most rookie mistake that a user can make while being connected to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network is to turn off the firewall or worse- to not use the firewall at all.
To put it in simple terms, a firewall is any hardware or software that works by surveilling incoming and outgoing traffic to block any malicious programs according to a set of predetermined rules, set by the user.
As a responsible user of technology, users need to be aware that installing a firewall does not provide complete security. On the contrary, a firewall works best when used with antivirus software.
However, on the positive side of things, a firewall works as an effective barrier that offers your device protection by going through packets of data that pass through any exchange of data that occurs on our devices.
If the firewall sees any data packets, that it considers to slightly malicious, it will block that packet of data and safeguard your device from attack.
Usually, users disable the firewall from their devices because of the pesky notification that keeps occurring, but to remain safe while browsing through a free Wi-Fi network, it is essential that you make sure that you’re using an active firewall, as the first line of defense against various threats.
If you’re confused about which firewall software to download, some of the best options available include:
5- Use an Antivirus:
Perhaps an essential tool that a person can rely on when it comes to network security is antivirus software.
Antivirus can help protect your device from external and internal threats by detecting any malware that might put your data or operating system at risk.
However, to ensure that your antivirus software can perform its function efficiently, you need to update your antivirus software regularly.
The next time you decide to surf the web through a free Wi-Fi, the antivirus that you have installed will diligently warn you of any malware or hacking threats, so that you may maintain your security.
Some other tips to remain safe on a public Wi-Fi network include:
- Turning off the connection after you’re done with the browsing.
- Make sure that you use two-factor authentication to prevent hackers from gaining access to your account, even after they’ve discovered the entry credentials.
- Make sure to click on “Forget Network” after using the Wi-Fi network.
- Use common sense- don’t make any financial transactions while connected to a free Wi-Fi.
- If you have the option, try to forego using a public Wi-Fi at all, instead opt for using your smartphone as a hotspot instead.
Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with the essential tips and techniques needed to browse through using a public Wi-Fi network make sure you use them the next time a notification indicating the availability of a public Wi-Fi pops up on your phone.