How To Access the Internet Safely From Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

It is very risky to access the Internet from public Wi-Fi hotspots without adequate security. Unauthorized third parties, such as hackers, can access personal data and information if it is relayed over unprotected wireless Wi-Fi signals.

A hacker with the proper software can monitor the connections of Wi-Fi hotspot users, stealing personal and sensitive information. Therefore, it is imperative for users to safeguard their identities and data when accessing the Internet from public Wi-Fi hotspots.

A user can safely access the Internet from public Wi-Fi hotspots by following these methods:

Change Network Connection and Computer Settings

There are several settings that users can change to increase their online security.

[highlight]Turn Off the Sharing Options[/highlight]

You should disable sharing between users connected on the same hotspot. From the Control Panel in Windows, choose Network and Internet and then Network and Sharing Center. Click on Advanced sharing settings and make sure the File and printer sharing and Public folder sharing options are turned off.

[highlight]Enable or Install a Firewall[/highlight]

You also should enable the their operating system’s Firewall option. In Windows, go to your Control Panel and click on System and Security. Open the Windows Firewall option and make sure your firewall is activated.

[highlight]Keep your software up-to-date[/highlight]

You should make sure to update the computer or device with the most up-to-date security software and firmware. When not accruing the Internet, the user should disable the wireless adapter.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) Connection

By using a fast VPN connection, you can safely access the Internet from public hotspots. This method is safe because the VPN encrypts the entire Internet connection. With a fast VPN connection in place, a “tunnel” is created through the hotspot’s Internet connection. This tunnel provides secure online access and prevents hackers from intercepting data transmissions. Users can choose up to 256-bit encryption for the greatest security.

Use an SSL-Enabled Website

In addition to using a fast VPN while browsing, users should ensure that websites where they transmit personal information protected using SSL encryption. Examples of websites where SSL should be used are banking and financial statements and websites requiring a login. SSL encryption ensures that the information exchanged between a computer and a website is secured with encrypted code. The web browser displays a padlock icon next to the site URL when users access an SSL-secured website.  It is up to the website creator to set up SSL security for a website. If a website requiring sensitive personal information is not SSL encrypted, it is recommended to not use the site at all until they fix the security flaw.

Use Hotspots That Are Encrypted

Using hotspots that provide data encryption is another way users can increase their security while using the Internet.  However this method does not provide very much in the way of security, and does not protect the user from other users that also have the Wi-Fi password. As Wi-Fi passwords can be obtained easily through legitimate or malicious means, a user should never rely simply on password-protected Wi-Fi as their only source of security.

Finally, be careful of rogue hotspots. Sometimes hackers masquerade as legitimate hotspots in order to intercept your credentials and data. Users should avoid hotspots that may not be legitimate, especially when traveling or in an unknown location.

While all the methods above will help users to access the Internet safely from public hotspots, a VPN connection provides the best option. A reliable and fast VPN connection provides excellent data encryption. A VPN connection offers security when accessing websites whether or not the websites are SSL-encrypted.

Additionally, a VPN protects the user even when the user is connected to a password-protected Wi-Fi connection. Hackers and tracers will be unable to obtain personal, financial or other sensitive information about the user. By using these suggestions, users can safeguard their identities, data, and computers.

Sam Harden enjoys discussing technology related to safety and security.  The tool like VPN noted above is a prime example. His works educate on topics relating to a free and open internet.

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Imtiaz Rayhan
 

Editor of TechThumbs. Music addict, The Beatles fan. Love travelling and spending time with friends.

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