4 Security Precautions to Take Before Using Public Wi-Fi

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This is a guest article by Jessica Salt.

Using public Wi-Fi automatically introduces security threats that rarely exist on private networks. If you have to use a public network, then follow these safety precautions to keep your information secure.

Only Use Encrypted Websites

Anyone with some basic hacking experience can steal information from other computers on a public network. You can make it shutterstock_82383217considerably harder by only using encrypted sites.

You will know whether a site uses encryption by its address. If it starts “https,” then it’s a secure site. Without the “s,” you’re making it easy for someone to watch you enter passwords and account numbers.

Https sites encrypt the information that you submit online so that eavesdroppers just see mess of letters and numbers.

If you want to use an email server, make sure you have the SSL enabled so no one can see your ID, password, or emails.

Don’t Share Anything

Your home network should let you share files and devices easily. That way, you can do things like use your tablet to access files on your desktop computer.

Sharing is great at home, but it’s a liability on public Wi-Fi. Considering that you probably don’t have password protections on all of your files, literally anyone could browse through your computer. It doesn’t take any special skills. When your computer is set to share, it’s basically begging for other devices to take its information.

If you have a Windows operating system, you can automatically block sharing by choosing the “public” network setting. You can also do this manually under Change Advanced Sharing Settings.

If you have a Mac, look for Sharing under System Preferences. Uncheck all of the boxes there to hide your files.

Turn on Your Personal Firewall

Most contemporary operating systems come with basic firewall software that will add a level of protection to your computer.

Your computer is probably already setup to use its firewall software. You can double-check to make sure you have this protection. Windows users should go to Control Panel, System and Security, and Firewall. Mac users can find firewall software under System Preferences, Security.

Your personal firewall isn’t going to keep out a determined, experienced hacker. But it does make it harder for someone to eavesdrop. That’s often enough to persuade hackers that they should find an easier target.

If you want more protection, avoid public networks by using to find a reliable mobile service provider. You’ll have a private connection to the Internet no matter where you go.

Don’t Leave Your Device On

Only connect to the public Wi-Fi when you need to use it. If you don’t need it, disconnect or turn off your device. The more time you spend on the network, the more chances you give a hacker to break in and do something bad.

It often helps to log off as soon as you’ve gotten the information that you need. That way, you have the files you want without staying online for very long.

What other security precautions do you use on public Wi-Fi? Have you ever encountered problems while using a public network?

— Jessica Salt is a writer who loves what she does. You can follow her on Twitter @thejessicasalt to keep up with her work.

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