The more people you share an internet connection with, the more vulnerable you are to data theft. That’s why it is always safe to browse the internet from home or at the workplace where the networks are uncongested and secure. But you cannot hide in this comfort zone forever; you will occasionally need to use public internet, such as a coffee shop or airport WiFi. When that happens, how do you secure your data? Here are 5 tips for staying safe while using airport WiFi.
Beware of suspicious pop-ups. One way of being logged while using airport WiFi is through malicious pop-up screens. It could be a prompt asking you to sign up for “advanced free features,” to install a browser extension or even to install some software that increases your device’s download speed. Although some of these prompts are legitimate, don’t sign up for any of them unless you are very sure that it is from a safe source.
Note that as with any other public WiFi, the connection at airports, concerts and other events might not be completely foolproof, so always make sure that you know how to keep your data safe, suggest experts at Ideko. You should always check the name of the WiFi you are signing onto so as to confirm that it indeed belongs to the airport. While at it, you will be safer if you spare a minute to read and understand the terms and conditions that the network demands. What data does the network collect from your device? For what purpose is the data collected? Does the network have sufficient security measures to keep the data they collect from you safe? These, among others, are issues that you may need to check first before logging into airport WiFi.
Take charge of your own safety. How strong are your cybersecurity measures? Before logging into unverified hotspots in the airport, first ensure that your security updates are, well, up-to-date. Your browser and operating system need to be optimized for data security with a legitimate, strong security program.
At the very least, ensure that the free Windows Defender is fully functional before anything else. It may not be enough to keep strong malware away but it will put off mild internet threats.
Use a VPN. To many people, a Virtual Private Network is a magical tool that enables them to access geo-restricted websites. But there is a more fundamental reason why VPN exists: It shields you from opportunistic cyber eavesdroppers who are always out to hack into your browsing activity and steal your data, especially when you use public WiFi.
A VPN is an encrypted network that allows your browsing device to access the internet as though you were on the VPN’s location and/or local network. In simpler terms, a VPN is a network that has a secure computer (server) that you can connect your computer/phone/tablet with remotely and use its internet connection to surf the internet.
Connecting your browsing device – smartphone, PC, tablet, iPad – to a VPN means that any data that comes to or leaves your device is encrypted and made to appear as if it is originating from a remote, secure server. For example, if you are in China but are using a U.S.-based VPN, it will appear as if you are coming from a location within the U.S. Anyone snooping on untrustworthy WiFi hotspots will, therefore, have a hard time trying to fish for your computer’s browsing details.
There are plenty of VPNs on the internet for you to choose from depending on your location, surfing preferences and budget. The key is to know which VPN serves you best. What’s more, connecting to such a network is pretty straightforward.
Is your browser giving you any red flags? Look for a padlock icon on the left-hand side of your URL bar. If the site you are on is secure, the padlock will be locked. If it is insecure, the padlock is unlocked. Some browsers will even display the words “secure” or “insecure” to let you know what you are getting yourself into. Don’t ignore these warnings.
Turn off file and printer sharing. If you are used to sharing files and printing documents through trusted networks at home or in the office, then you probably have your computer’s “file and printer options” turned on. Turn this feature off whenever you use airport Wi-Fi so that no unauthorized persons can download or print your personal files.
The bottom line is that airport WiFi is free and welcoming, but you must be careful not to welcome data thieves into your personal space and offer your pertinent data to them on a golden platter. The tips above will help you secure your personal identity while using public internet connections.
Ervin Barrell is a software development grad student at Syracuse University, and a regular writer on topics related to internet security and privacy.
ABA Law Technology Today was launched in 2012 to provide the legal community with practical guidance for the present and sensible strategies for the future. LTT brings together practicing lawyers, technology professionals and practice management experts from a wide range of practice settings and backgrounds. LTT is published by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center.