Top 6 Ways to Connect to Public Wireless Network Safely
Nowadays, you can get free public Wi-Fi almost anywhere including airports, local coffee shops and public libraries. Accessing Internet for free while you’re waiting in an airport may sound like a good idea, but it can involve risks. Since public wireless networks are open and unencrypted, they are relatively unsecure. However, there are some ways to stay safe while surfing a public hotspot. Here are top six hotspot safety tips:
1. Disable auto-connect: When you’re near public Wi-Fi hotspots and your auto-connection is turned on, you may automatically connect to an open network without your knowledge.
2. Avoid online transactions: Online shopping/banking/bill payment makes life easier, but make sure you do all your sensitive transactions in the comforts of your own home, over a VPN connection or on a Wi-Fi network that has WPA2 security.
3. Prefer https over http: When browsing the web on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, use the HTTPS protocol whenever possible. Unlike “http”,”https” protocol creates a secure channel between your computer and a web server that encrypts transmitted data. Most websites, especially banking websites automatically switch to https protocol. The majority of sites use the “http” protocol by default, but also support “https” if you manually type it in. For example, log in to Gmail using the “https” protocol by typing in https://www.gmail.com instead of http://www.gmail.com.
Keep an eye on the address bar and if ”https” switch back to ”http”, it indicates thatthe particular website doesn’t support “https”. As a safety measure, log out from such websites immediately.
4. Disable file sharing: If your computer has shared hard disk partitions, folders or files, make sure you unshare them before connecting to any public Wi-Fi network.
5. Turn your firewall on: Before you connect to any public Wi-Fi hotspot, make sure that your network firewall is activated. You can either choose to use the pre-installed firewall tool that comes with Windows and Mac or get a superior firewall security from vendors like Symantec or ZoneAlarm.
6. Never connect to an ad-hoc network: Do you know that all wireless signals that you see under “Available Wireless Network” are not necessarily a wireless signal from a wireless router? Ad-hoc networks allow one computer to connect to the Internet through a second computer without relying on a router or additional access points. If you connect to an ad-hoc network, the user on the other side could easily steal sensitive data from your computer.
If you need help with using public wireless network safely, give Support.com a call at 1-800-PC-Support (1-800-727-8776).