How to stay secure when using public Wi-Fi

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A lot of us are back on the move as restrictions loosen, whether it’s just to your neighborhood restaurants or a far-flung vacation destination.

But that doesn’t mean you aren’t still glued to your devices and forever searching for free Wi-Fi. (Related: How to limit your screen time.) If you have to use Wi-Fi in a cafe, hotel, mall, or other public place, take precautions.

Read more: How to get free Wi-Fi and internet anywhere

Public Wi-Fi security risks

Because public Wi-Fi networks are often open, unsecured networks, there are various types of cyberattacks that connections over these networks are particularly susceptible to. These attacks can allow third parties to see what you’re doing online, possibly stealing sensitive information like passwords and bank details.

Precautions when using public Wi-Fi hotspots

1. Use a VPN

The easiest solution is to use a VPN, which encrypts your traffic, shielding it from snoops and keeping your activity private.

2. Avoid accessing bank accounts

Possibly the most sensitive accounts you access online are banking and other financial services. Best not to log in to them over public Wi-Fi.

3. Use antivirus software 

Antivirus software will often alert you when you’re entering a suspicious network or if any suspicious activity is detected. It also protects your devices against unpatched and outdated systems. 

4. Don’t open password managers or cloud backups 

We talked a little about why you should avoid accessing online banking sites while on public Wi-Fi, and the same goes for sites like password managers, cloud backups, and anything that requires you to log in to important accounts. 

5. Connect via LAN

From a security standpoint, using an Ethernet cable makes your connection way more secure. Attacking a device over an Ethernet requires a hacker to gain access to its cable and router, so it’s definitely not as easy as intercepting Wi-Fi traffic. If you are worried enough when going online in, say, a hotel, take along an Ethernet cable for your laptop.

Read more: Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi: Which is better?

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