The availability of free wifi hotspots in public spaces can be very convenient for people with mobile devices or laptops. Many businesses, such as restaurants and cafes, offer free wifi connection to their guests as a marketing tool.
While you are waiting at the airport or relaxing in a hotel room, chances are you will have access to free wireless internet connection.
It may be your morning routine to enjoy a hot drink and check your email at the local Starbucks, but like many free things in life, public wifi also has its drawbacks. Surfing the world wide web with free wifi may require you to take some protective measures.
The dangers of public wifi
According to norton.com, here are the main dangers of using a free wifi connection:
- Wifi espionage – Through the use of specialized software or hardware, hackers can exploit the signals that travel between your device and the wireless router.
- Unscrupulous wifi networks – Cyber criminals can set up networks to lure unsuspecting mobile users. The free wifi you just connected to in your local Panera may actually be a malicious network designed to steal your information.
- Middle man attacks – This type of attack is related to espionage, whereby hackers gain access to your data by standing between you and the network access point. They gain the ability to intercept and read transmitted data.
- Malware Exposure – Malicious programs such as viruses and worms can be introduced into your device due to several security vulnerabilities in certain software. Destructive malware can cause loss of data and your device can potentially be damaged.
- Lack of data encryption – The free wireless network you use may not have been configured to enforce encryption during data transmissions.
Protect yourself when using public wifi
The security issues of free wifi networks include all users of mobile devices. According to spiceworks.com, more than 60% of companies have employees who connect their business devices to free wifi when they are on the move.
Personal data is certainly important and compromising it can have serious repercussions on victims. Exposing corporate information can lead to ramifications that affect a company, its employees and potentially its customers.
There are several methods to minimize the potential danger to your data and devices when you consider using free public wifi networks. According to inc.com, following these instructions will help you keep your information safe. Business and home mobile users alike will benefit from these steps.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN). Although there are many other private reasons to use a VPN, the main advantages for users connected to a public wifi space are the encryption capabilities built into the VPN software. A quality VPN service will ensure that your data is securely encrypted so that no one can see it when it is transmitted online.
- Disable the automatic connection option for your devices. Automatic connections to networks expose you to hacking risks when you think you are not connected. Your device needs to ask you permission to connect before accessing any public wifi network.
- Consider using a mobile hotspot available through your provider rather than choosing public wifi networks. There is a cost and another device is required but this does not remove the risks of connecting to public wifi.
- Install anti-malware software on all mobile devices and make sure you have activated a secure firewall on the equipment.
- If you are looking for web hosting for your site, be sure to choose one that actively promotes and builds itself against unwanted attacks.
- Avoid using public wifi if possible. You may wonder if it’s worth using a free wifi connection or if you can wait to be connected in a safer location.
- Refrain from online activities such as checking your bank account or shopping that may expose sensitive data when you connect to a public wifi network.
If you think you will be using a public Wi-Fi network in the future, you really need to install a VPN on your laptop or mobile. If you don’t, you run the same risks as if you were driving in the middle of the night without turning on your headlights. You may arrive at your destination safe and sound, but it will only be luck..
Choosing The Best VPN services
Most people do not drive without turning on their headlights because they are aware of the risks involved.
You should have the same feeling about using a VPN to connect to a public wifi hotspot. You can get free VPNs, but in general, you will enjoy better performance with a paid product. Most of them work with a monthly subscription that decreases according to the length of time you want to use the service.
As we are focused on protection when using public wifi, encryption capabilities are critical to the VPN you choose to use. Here is a brief overview of the best VPNs available.
256-bit military-grade AES encryption to keep your data safe with this VPN. NordVPN can be tested without commitment for 3 days. There is a circuit breaker built into the software to terminate your online connection if the VPN service fails to maintain your security.
A single account allows you to protect up to six devices at a time. You can block malware and pop-up ads, and the company offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you think the product is not suitable for you.
ExpressVPN is another premium VPN service that securely encrypts your data with 256-byte AES protection. Your purchase is protected by a 30-day money back guarantee and you can connect three devices to a single account.
If the VPS connection fails, a circuit breaker shuts down your Internet connection immediately to protect your data.
Leveraging bank-like encryption, Avast VPN protects your valuable data from unauthorized access. You can use the service with five connected devices at the same time and try the product free of charge for 7 days. A 30-day refund is available but only if you have not used the software with a certain level of connection attempts and data downloads.
Some adware reports bundled with the software may make users a little nervous about this product.
Connect up to seven devices simultaneously and enjoy the data protection of 256-byte AES encryption with CyberGhost. You can try the service for free for 24 hours and they offer a money back guarantee that varies depending on the package you select.
It protects your connection with a circuit breaker to disconnect you if the VPN stops working.
VPN Unlimited offers powerful 256-byte AES encryption to keep your data safe. They offer many different rates, including a lifetime subscription. Potential problems with this tool are that download speeds may be reduced and some of the users’ login credentials may be restricted from the free VPN services.
You can protect up to five devices at the same time and a 7-day trial is offered with a money-back guarantee.
Here’s another VPN that offers secure encryption and the ability to protect up to five devices on a single account. It offers a free three-day trial, but you must enter your payment information to access this feature.
A different quality of this service is that they own and operate their own hardware, eliminating any third party issues.
To complete our list of VPNs, IPVanish. As its name suggests, its main purpose is to keep online activities private by hiding your IP address. It also provides the encryption you need if you try to use a public wifi.
Test it with a 7-day money back guarantee. IPVanish allows you to connect up to 10 devices at the same time.
Finding the Right VPN for Your Needs
Now that you know the potential risks involved in using a public wifi connection, present everywhere you go. You need to be convinced that it is necessary to add an extra layer of protection to keep your devices and data safe. This is what a VPN service offers you. Don’t use public wifi networks anymore without installing a VPN on your device. And turn on your headlights!