4 ways to stay secure when using public Wi-Fi

Traveling to a distant place or going on a vacation to a nearby cafe to enjoy the quiet atmosphere is becoming the norm again. This trend means that, sooner or later, practices once accustomed to will be reverted.

As with anything else users will have to relearn with the endemic transition, good security practices when using public Wi-Fi also require some changes.

As you know, you can spy on what sites other users are accessing on your network. This is both a privacy issue and a potential security flaw. Here are 4 ways to maintain security when accessing the network from outside.

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Pay attention to the access network

The first is to carefully choose the network to connect to. This is especially important for users who don’t care too much about other security measures. Anyone can inspect the traffic going on the network by simply installing a program on their PC that catches data packets. By exchanging unencrypted data with a website, sensitive information can be easily stolen.

Above all else, avoid public networks run by administrators you don’t know. You don’t want to be hacked by accessing an unverified network. The network of department stores, hotels and airports is relatively safe. In these places, Wi-Fi is not installed for the purpose of spying on the user’s home address, credit card information, or social security number. You should also check the spelling of the network name carefully.

If you’re not sure if you’re currently connected to public Wi-Fi, there are two things to check: To connect to public Wi-Fi operated by a large company, you must agree to terms and conditions. On the other hand, for small businesses, you can enter a password that is freely shared with customers.

However, other measures are also required, as any user accessing the network can spy on the traffic. For reference, all networks that general users can connect to are considered public Wi-Fi.

Check if the firewall is working

Leaving your computer’s TCP and UDP ports open is like unlocking the door to your home. To prevent external intrusion, you must block traffic requests to these ports. This is the role of the firewall.

In Windows 10 and Windows 11, the firewall is enabled by default. However, if you change your PC settings, you must make sure your firewall is turned on before connecting to public Wi-Fi. Go to the Settings app, then type ‘Firewall and network protection’ in the search bar.

HTTPS Always On

When you visit a website, you need to make sure that the website is transmitting data over an encrypted network. Modern websites use secure networks, but older websites don’t.

Usually, your browser will tell you which network is unsafe, but you can also check manually. Just look for ‘https’ at the beginning of the website address.

Traffic between users and websites includes sensitive information such as user names and passwords, payment information, and addresses. When using an insecure HTTP connection, anyone on the same network can see this traffic.

One thing is clear: when users connect to public Wi-Fi, they share the network with a large number of users who can get a glimpse of their behavior. Moreover, even if there are users with malicious intent among them, there is no way to know.

For added security, you can install HTTPS Everywhere from the Electronic Freedom Foundation. HTTP Everyware can be used in browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, and prevents users from accidentally accessing unsafe sites as much as possible.

Enable VPN

As mentioned earlier, when you connect to a public Wi-Fi connection and visit a secure website, other users on the same network cannot get a detailed picture of the data you and the website are exchanging. However, the fact that the user is accessing the site can be known. It doesn’t really matter when you use Google or TikTok, but the risk increases if you check your bank balance on a PC or smartphone.

It’s a good idea to set up a VPN connection in case you’re working outside your home. Then you can protect your personal information more safely. First, connect a device such as a PC or smartphone to Wi-Fi and then connect to the VPN. When the device is connected to both Wi-Fi and VPN, the Internet is running normally. All user traffic goes through the VPN server. Even if someone is monitoring your network traffic, you can only see your PC sending and receiving information to and from the VPN, not the site or service you’re connecting to.

It goes without saying, but it only works if you use a trusted VPN. Most free VPNs are unreliable. This is because they usually do not protect personal information as thoroughly as paid services. Therefore, you should only use a verified VPN, and the stability of the local server is important if you are traveling abroad. Otherwise, you’ll have to route your traffic across the ocean, and your web browsing speed will be significantly slower.
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Source: ITWorld Korea by www.itworld.co.kr.

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