Wi-Fi, huh? You can’t live with it, you can’t live without it. When you’re on the move and need that social media hit – or, say, you’re waiting for an important business email – a friendly public Wi-Fi zone can be more warming than the sight of a familiar face.
Unfortunately, just like that good-natured acquaintance you keep bumping into, public Wi-Fi is not perfect and may even be harmful in certain conditions. It’s always best to stay at least a little vigilant and be aware of the risks if you want to keep the interaction healthy and beneficial.
In the case of Wi-Fi, the onus really is on you because a quarter of all public hotspots and around two-fifths of all apps do little or nothing to keep you safe. Using a decent VPN service on each of your devices (many of the paid VPNs can be used on three or more machines at a time) will help to remedy that, encrypting your data as passes through the network.
But you should also look to the device settings themselves, which may leave you vulnerable to other methods of hacking and data theft. For example, a Bluetooth connection can leave you wide-open to unwanted access, so your Bluetooth connectivity is best switched off unless you need it.
And it’s also a good idea to switch off ‘auto-connect,’ because every time you return to (or even pass by) a public Wi-Fi spot you’ve used before, your phone will hook up with it; sounds convenient, but there’s always a chance the hub has been ‘spoofed’ since you last visited, and that you’re actually checking in with villains. It may take longer to connect manually, but it means you remember to carefully peruse the network’s credentials so you know what you’re getting.
There are many such tweaks you can make to your Wi-Fi habits to reduce the chance of becoming a cyber-crime victim, and the best ones have all been collected into this excellent new visual guide.
Now all that’s left is to figure out if you can trust that kindly acquaintance who keeps showing up everywhere you go.