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Public Wireless Networks—6 Ways to Stay Safe

Wow! You have got access to public Wi-Fi. This little tool now lets you browse the web while you enjoy coffee, sitting at your favorite coffee house or shopping mall or even bookstore. No matter, how cool it looks and how accessible it makes things for you, there is always an amount of risk involved whenever you connect to public Wi-Fi.

But, no that does not mean that you need your portable 3G or 4G connection, wherever you go. Here are six tips that can keep your PC safe, even while accessing public internet.

1. Check for fake Wi-Fi

You settle down at a coffee shop, start your laptop and yes, you can see the store’s network name (SSID). Then you see another, even stronger signal from a SSID that is, wide open. Strong signals mean better connection, so you go for it.

Think again.

This is commonly known as man-in-the-middle attack. The attractive Wi-Fi signal may not belong to the coffee shop at all, but rather someone else who is trying to take advantage by setting up their own Wi-Fi router to attract users like you. Once, you access their signal versus the store’s, they can monitor all your internet traffic, using their special software that can detect things like login and password information.

If you are about to access the public Wi-Fi of a store for the first time and not sure of their SSID, it is best to ask, rather than get into someone else’s network unknowingly.

2. Check Security Level

One of the most important things that you need to do is check the security level of public wireless networks. Go for the most secure Wi-Fi network, even if you have to pay for it. A password protected network is much more secure than the one that doesn’t require one. Even though there can be multiple people who can access the public internet, it is still restricted with a password.

3. Those USB drives and CDs are not for you

You take your seat at a bookstore and then on the floor under the table. You see a pen drive. So, you pick it up and boot your laptop with the good intent of trying to find out, who it belongs to.

You should never do this!

It is quite possible that the USB had been planted there, waiting for someone kind like you to pick it up and do exactly that. In all possibility, instead of finding a file saying, "This drive belongs to…" you would find Trojan malware that will infect your laptop, so a hacker can access it then or later.

4. Shoulder Peeking

One of the most common dangers while accessing public Wi-Fi is shoulder peeking. You do not really want anyone looking over your shoulder or worse, recording you when you are doing some sensitive work. (Honestly, you should not be doing sensitive work like banking, paying bills etc. from a public network).

5. Don't Share Your Laptop

There is a possibility that you may find someone desperate to use your laptop, tablet or smartphone to check something online. Put your foot down and do not let them access your system. It will just take them a few seconds to infect your system. All they need to do is visit a malicious website and it is done.

6. Don't Login

You want to browse using public Wi-Fi, great go ahead. However, follow a standard rule about never accessing accounts that require you to login. You should never conduct banking transactions or pay your credit card bills, when using a public internet. If you are in a stuck up situation, using your phone’s cellular connection is your best shot. If you want to access your Facebook or Twitter, then do so through apps that are available free on all Smartphones today.

Having a good antivirus suite on your laptop or tablet is something that goes without saying today. So, access public Wi-Fi, but take the necessary safety protocols to keep your system infection free.

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