How to Stay Safe on Public Networks

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Some of the most common areas targeted by cybercriminals are public Wi-Fi-enabled areas. There are ways that hackers can target the unsuspecting users of public Wi-Fi networks and access their private credentials and data. Sites such as explain how people can ensure that they do not make themselves an easy target to these hackers.

However, some hackers have developed ways to mimic the names of the public Wi-Fi networks offered by different businesses. Then, when an unsuspecting user accesses the networks, the hackers can send malware to that person's device whilst they are connected to the web, which exposes their private information allowing it to be used for criminal activities.

But, do not be scared off using the public Wi-Fi networks as there are several precautions that you can take to ensure that you stay safe.

Look for the authenticity of the public Wi-Fi

Always ensure that you are using an authentic public network, and not one created by cybercriminals to steal private information from the general public. Additionally, verifying the correct SSID or the name of the Wi-Fi network you are connecting to is vital as this will help you ensure that you are logged onto the right and authentic Wi-Fi network on your phone. Also, ensure the name entered is correct and countercheck this with staff before completing any action. Finally, ensure that you have turned off sharing preferences and other critical information.  Most criminal websites are open networks, hence using password-locked networks adds more security when using a public network. Verifying the authenticity of the network will help keep your device and crucial information safe.

Secured devices

Having device security helps increase the protection of individual data on a device and it is essential to ensure that none of your private data is exposed to third parties.

There are antimalware and antivirus software applications that can be easily installed on any device to increase its protective measures. Such software is designed specifically to track any activity in a phone or computer and update on any suspicious threats or attacks on the device. If there are any security glitches from the incoming data, alerts are sounded, and a firewall is essential when using a public network.

Also, ensure that all your devices are up to date. These software updates will help keep hackers out of your phone or computer. The Wannacry attack on the UK NHS and other organisations around the world in 2017 is a good reason why we should keep our devices up to date.

Safe browsing

It is advisable to take all the necessary precautions when using public networks, even if the device connected to the Wi-Fi is assumed to be secured. Since the public Wi-Fi is unsecured, users are advised to avoid accessing their social media accounts or conducting monetary transactions that expose their pins while using the public networks. You should also think about your children and their use of social media on public networks.

Use the encrypted sites

HTTP is a symbol used to demonstrate that a specific site is encrypted. Using an encrypted website, such as, means that any data searches or transactions conducted within the site and the device are not exposed to hackers or third parties.

These sites ensure no links or sites containing different malware land on your browser when performing the required online searches. Before clicking on a web address having the suitable precautions is an added advantage as phishing links do not appear on your screen.

Installing a VPN

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) offer additional privacy and security while browsing the internet. They provide a safe and encrypted tunnel for accessing the internet without exposing any information to third parties or prying eyes.

Working without a VPN means that any information that goes to your ISP is taped into your router, which forwards your internet traffic to that website. Then, the ISP assigns a unique number called IP address to the router. Hence, websites can obtain your IP address and track your location information and use this for marketing purposes. In contrast, anyone with a VPN can hide their identity or location, making it hard for cybercriminals to identify any information from the connected device. Moreover, a VPN helps cloaks the ISP from any personal information and websites as internet traffic passes through a VPN internet connection which encrypts your data. Therefore, VPNs are the safest way to protect your device and data from being stolen due to their high security and encryption.

Ensure Your Firewall is on Every Time

A firewall ensures that your device is kept safe from data-based malware. It prevents a malware attack before it even happens by checking every piece of data that comes into your device via the network to ensure it is safe. Additionally, if a hacker has unauthorized access to your device, a firewall will help prevent them from stealing any information from your device. Therefore, keeping your firewall turned on every time is essential, especially if using using public networks.

Enabling 2FA on Accounts with Private Information

By using two-factor authentication (2FA) protection on all your accounts, for example bank accounts, email, online learning and social media accounts, will help keep you safe from cybercriminals. The 2FA provides multiple protective layers to all your account which will prevent hackers from accessing your information.

Monitor your Bluetooth Connectivity

Having your Bluetooth connect over public networks will increase the chances of hackers accessing your data via Bluetooth connectivity. This can happen in different ways, such as through blue bugging that allows hackers to access your mobile device and information, such as messages and photos. Also, there's blue snarfing that exploits your Bluetooth internet connection and steal information such as your downloads and data on your phone. Hackers can use this information to steal from you or blackmail you. Then there is the blackjacking, whereby hackers send spam messages or emails, which will help them obtain critical data from your phone. Therefore, ensuring your Bluetooth is not connected when in public Wi-Fi areas will protect you from cybercriminals.

In conclusion, it is hard to ignore public Wi-Fi completely as it can be very useful. However, it is essential to use a secured system to prevent a private data leak to third parties who may use the information for criminal activities.

About the Author

Péťa Slavík is an internet geek who enjoys sharing his knowledge to benefit others.