4 steps to using public-access WiFi safely

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

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.”

3C’s  newsletter: Free subscription to fresh analysis of emerging exposures

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