We all love using Wi-Fi hotspots: they’re an easy and cost-effective way to get your daily internet time whether you’re at an airport, coffee shop, or library. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi hotspots can also be very dangerous for your computer. They can be operated by scammers who want to steal your information, for example. Or, even if the scammer isn’t actually running the network, someone could be actively monitoring the Wi-Fi network to view your banking information, email passwords, social media data, and more.
For all of those reasons, it’s important that you take some precaution before connecting to a Wi-Fi network. Here are our top 5 favorite ways to secure your computer when using a wireless network.
4) Avoid networks with strange names
If a hacker wants to lure people into using a Wi-Fi network, do you think he’s going to name it “Hacker’s Free Internet”? No, of course not! A smart hacker will use nondescript names like “Free Wi-Fi” or “Unlimited Internet Access”, which will lead users into joining the networks and having their information stolen.
In that sense, you should avoid networks that have strange names. Certain networks may promise things that are too good to be true, for example, like free unlimited high-speed internet access.
You should also check if the Wi-Fi is linked to a nearby business. Instead of connecting to “Public Wi-Fi”, connect to the network called “Frank’s Coffee House” – provided that a business called Frank’s Coffee House is located nearby. Consider asking the front desk of your hotel, or your barista, the exact name of the Wi-Fi network that the business provides.
3) Lock up your sensitive documents
A good encryption program will protect your sensitive documents from prying eyes. Even if a hacker gains access to your computer, he won’t be able to access your pictures, videos, spreadsheets, or whatever else you may have on your computer.
To do this, find a good encryption program online. There are plenty of different solutions out there, and once activated, an encryption program creates a hacker-proof wall of protection around any files you choose, meaning that the hacker will never be able to access the documents inside without guessing the password.
2) Turn off Wi-Fi when not in use
By default, your laptop or other mobile device will constantly scan for Wi-Fi networks. This not only drains your battery life, but it also exposes your PC to a greater degree of risk. You could accidentally log into a “Free Public Wi-Fi” scam network, for example, while you’re just walking around with your laptop in a bag.
If you’re done checking your email and browsing the internet, then you may want to turn off your computer’s Wi-Fi switch (usually located somewhere along the outside casing of your PC). This will ensure that your computer remains as protected as possible.
1) Always use HTTPS
Most major social media and banking websites offer “https” functionality. Instead of going to http://www.facebook.com, for example, you can navigate to https://www.facebook.com for enhanced security. The server provides an extra layer – called the Secure Socket Layer or SSL – that encrypts any traffic that you send or receive.
If you’re not browsing on an https connection, then a clever hacker can easily see what you’re doing online, especially if you’re on a free public Wi-Fi network. That information is drifting through the air for anybody to see, and before you know it, your social media passwords, banking information, and other important data may be compromised.