Question: I use my laptop frequently when I'm away from home. How can I safely use public Wi-Fi?
Short Tutorial/FAQ – How Can I Safely Use Public Wi-Fi?
Answer: Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, and other public places are convenient, but they can present security risks. If the Wi-Fi network isn't secure, and you log into an unencrypted site, other users on the network could potentially hijack your session and log in as you. New hacking tools — available for free online — make this easy, even for users with limited technical know-how. Your personal information and even your login credentials could be up for grabs.
There are ways, however, to minimize your risk:
Following these basic security tips will help you stay connected when you're out and about without exposing yourself to identity theft.
- Treat all Wi-Fi links with suspicion. Don't just assume that the Wi-Fi link is legitimate. It could be a bogus link that has been set up by a cybercriminal that's trying to capture personal information from unsuspecting users.
- Verify it's a legitimate wireless connection. Some bogus links set up by malicious users will often have a connection name that's deliberately similar to the real one used by the business. If possible, speak with an employee at the location and ask for information about their legitimate Wi-Fi network including the connection's name.
- Change your device's settings so it doesn't automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi. That way, you have more control over when and how you use public Wi-Fi.
- Consider using your phone's mobile data. If you're on the go and don't have the option of using a secure website, consider using your phone's mobile data instead of a public Wi-Fi network, especially if you need to access any websites that store or require the input of sensitive information such as your bank.
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