Public Wi-Fi: How to Keep Your Personal Data Private

With the recent data leaks in the news, including the privacy breach with Facebook, it may be time to take a look at your online privacy. In today’s world, you may always want the option to be connected, but keeping your information safe is crucial. While public wi-fi options may make connecting on the go easier, they pose a number of risks when it comes to your personal data. Before you accept those terms and conditions, check out these tips for keeping your personal data private while using public wi-fi.

1. Know the difference between public wi-fi network types

Before you enter any personal information, such as your email address, it’s important to know what type of network you’re connecting to. There are two types of public networks: secured and unsecured.

  1. Secured networks often ask you to submit an email, phone number, or use a specific password from the business you are at.
  2. Unsecured networks can simply be logged into by clicking on them.

All available networks will show up when you go to connect and it is obvious that secured networks should be preferred.

2. Say no to banking and online shopping until you’re secured

While it may seem obvious, it’s not uncommon. Any submission of your credit card information or passwords to your banking are at risk over unsecured networks. If you are able to, avoid using sites with important information, such as bank details or your social security number, until you get to a secure location.

3. HTTPS over HTTP

By now, you’re more than likely used to seeing “HTTP”, short for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol in the site URL. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. Adding an extra layer of protection for your data. Alternatively, there may be a lock symbol at the beginning of the site’s URL. While it should never be assumed as a catch-all, using HTTPS whenever possible will help keep your data secure.

4. Be selective

When you go to connect, you may see a number of open wi-fi options, but don’t connect to just any. Connect to Wi-Fi that has been verified by staff. Always look out for any suspiciously named networks. For example, “Free Coffee Shop Wi-Fi Here” or “Absolutely Free Wi-Fi”.

While it may look credible, most businesses typically list their name in the Wi-Fi and require some sort of log-in agreement. It is also recommended that when using public wi-fi, you turn off file sharing on your device and/or laptop.

5. READ the terms and conditions

Although the terms and conditions tend to be lengthy and small-print, it is necessary to read them. This is where you will learn what information the network will gather should you agree to use it. Often times a consumer can connect to the wi-fi after providing an email address. This information is then used for marketing purposes and may be passed on to several third-party sites.

While this may not be a deal breaker for some, your information may be used to collect data about your browsing habits.

6. VPN

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, provides extra protection by emulating a connection as if you were on a private network. A VPN will also help keep you anonymous online. This is useful for extra protection. Keep in mind, there are a vast number of VPNs out there, some free and others requiring a paid subscription. If you choose to go this route for added protection, do your homework. It is important to understand what the VPN may collect and what it protects against to find the right one for you.

7. Sign-off often

If you aren’t using the wi-fi, turn it off. Not only will this help to keep you secure, it also saves your battery life. If you can, download your documents beforehand and work offline. You may simply opt to not use unnecessary wireless devices as well. Your notifications can wait if there is not a safe option.

8. Tether.

If you must use public wi-fi, consider tethering a private connection through your mobile device. Tethering is creating a personal private network, usually between your smartphone and computer. While this does provide a safer, private option, it does burn through your data quickly. This isn’t the best choice for those with low data limits.

Using public wi-fi will always carry some amount of risk. However, if you keep your devices up to date and know what to avoid, you will be much safer the next time you connect. Keep these tips in mind the next time your browsing on the go and leave the important stuff for your secured home network. For more ways to protect yourself and the things that matter most, just call us at 724-929-2300! We can tailor an insurance policy to fit your needs so you’re never stuck paying for coverage you don’t need. We’ll save you money and time by doing the comparing for you.

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