We finally get to travel again. Whether you’re traveling to a faraway destination, or looking up the local cafe: you’ll have to deal with public WiFi connections. While these connections may seem harmless, they can cause a lot of problems. Time for a refresher course.
Users connected to the same WiFi connection can easily track your data. This is not only a privacy issue, but also has major implications for your online security. Fortunately, you can protect yourself in several ways.
4 ways to stay safe on a public WiFi connection
Staying safe on a public WiFi connection is not difficult at all. Most measures are automatically installed on your PC if all goes well. A piece of cake! If you use these four options, there is a good chance that your online data will not be misused by third parties.
1. Pay close attention to which WiFi connections you use
First of all, it’s important to choose public networks carefully. Especially if you are lax with other protective measures. Anyone can easily scan the online wrong that is connected on a WiFi connection. All you have to do is install a program that can store these data packets. If you exchange unencrypted data with a website, your sensitive information is undoubtedly up for grabs.
So avoid networks where you don’t know the administrators. There are exceptions, of course. For example, department stores, hotels and airports are reasonably safe. They don’t set up their WiFi to spy on users. Also, pay attention to the spelling of network names. If networks have weird names, they are usually not clean. This measure is still a long way to go. Since everyone can access public WiFi, you need some additional safeguards.
2. Enable firewall
Leaving your computer’s TCP and UDP ports open is akin to shopping without locking the front and back doors. So to best protect yourself from hackers, you need a thus a virtual lock. That’s what firewall software does. On Windows 10 and 11, your PC has a firewall enabled by default. If for some reason it is not enabled on yours, fortunately you can easily set it up. Go to the settings. Then type “Firewall and network security” in the search bar. Here you can manually turn on firewall protection. If your PC does not have a built-in firewall program, you can also download one.
3. Use HTTPS websites as much as possible when using public WiFi.
When you visit websites, you need to make sure that data is transmitted over an encrypted connection. If this is not done, anyone using the same WiFi connection can see the data exchanged between you and the website. This includes any sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords. With an encrypted connection, other people can only see what website you are on. Most websites do this automatically these days, but some older sites don’t have this yet. Your browser will warn you if you are not optimally protected, but you can also look this up manually. All you have to look for is ‘https’ at the beginning of the hyperlink.
4. Enable a VPN
So other people, even with an encrypted connection, can see what website you’re on. If you use Google or kill time on TikTok, you may not care. Still, there are times when you’d rather not, such as while checking your bank balance. You can protect your privacy by routing Internet activity through a virtual private network (VPN). To use it, first connect to the Wi-Fi. Then you connect the VPN. After that, you can just browse the internet as you are used to. All your internet traffic goes through the servers of the VPN. It controls the network traffic and ensures that your data is not exchanged with the websites you visit and vice versa.