4 steps to using public-access WiFi safely

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By Byron Aco­hi­do, Third­Cer­tain­ty

There’s no deny­ing the con­ve­nience of quick­ly tap­ping into a pub­lic WiFi access point, espe­cial­ly with so many pro­vid­ed for free by air­ports, cof­fee shops, book stores, hotels and the like. But you should keep in mind that it remains triv­ial for a low-skilled hack­er to tap in, observe your online activ­i­ty and even take con­trol of your device.

Using a net­work you don’t con­trol is like jump­ing into the wild west,” says Corey Nachrein­er, direc­tor of secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy at Watch­Guard Tech­nolo­gies. “You real­ly don’t want to go out with­out your six-shoot­er and maybe a bul­let proof vest.”

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Here are four steps to sleep bet­ter while using pub­lic WiFi access points.

  • Make sure you have a fire­wall and cur­rent anti-mal­ware suite enabled on your com­put­ing device.
  • Use your company’s Vir­tu­al Pri­vate Net­work, or sub­scribe to a con­sumer VPN ser­vice such as Hotspot Shield or Tun­nel­Bear. They’re both free, easy-to-use, secure dig­i­tal tun­nels that hide your com­put­ing device’s IP address and hin­ders Inter­net com­pa­nies from track­ing your Web brows­ing pat­terns.
  • Reg­u­lar­ly prune the WiFi net­works list­ed on your device for auto­mat­ic recon­nec­tion to lim­it the oppor­tu­ni­ties bad guys have to trick your device into con­nect­ing to a faked access point. In par­tic­u­lar, delete names of net­works you would only encounter when trav­el­ing far from your pri­ma­ry loca­tion.
  • Con­sid­er using a mobile hot spot con­nec­tion while trav­el­ing. You can sub­scribe to such a ser­vice on your smart­phone or through a sep­a­rate sig­nal sent through a USB modem. This is the surest way to con­nect to a trust­wor­thy net­work.

 

More on emerg­ing best prac­tices

Encryp­tion rules ease retail­ers’ bur­den
Track­ing priv­i­leged accounts can thwart hack­ers
Impen­e­tra­ble encryp­tion locks down Inter­net of Things


Posted in Data Privacy, Editor's Picks