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How to use public Wi-Fi safely

Ideally, avoid using public Wi-Fi. It can be very difficult to spot a real Wi-Fi network from a fake one.

If you need to use internet access in public, consider using your phone as a hotspot to share its mobile data (iPhone instructions available here).

However there may be times where you need a connection and your mobile device can’t be used. Here are some tips to say safe, but be aware, they do not guarantee 100% safety.

Public Wi-Fi Safety Tips

  • Use a reputable VPN service
    You may have access to a work-based VPN service. Ensure it is enabled when connecting your device to the public Wi-Fi network. Otherwise use a reputable, paid VPN service to encrypt the data you send and receive. Using a VPN is the most important tip in this list.
  • Confirm the ‘official’ name of the Wi-Fi network
    Ask an employee at the location to confirm the name of the local Wi-Fi network. Otherwise look for signs that are located behind public-restricted areas, e.g. behind a counter at a cafe.
  • Only access services that use a security certificate (SSL)
    Otherwise hackers can manipulate the content on websites, even if the public Wi-Fi network your using is legitimate. Find out more about SSL certificates here.
  • Don’t login to any service, don’t do any banking
    That means no bank transfers, logging into email, online shopping, logging into social media, or entering any passwords. This is restrictive but if you transmit those details, you risk them being compromised. Wait until you can use a secure, trusted connection. Or use your mobile data. Public Wi-Fi should only be used for very basic web browsing.
  • Check the terms of use, don’t blindly click ‘I agree’
    It’s rare to actually read the terms and conditions but clicking I agree when using public Wi-Fi can be particularly bad. Especially if they’ve asked for your email or phone number. They may spam you or worse. Unless the terms of use are generally limited to a few lines, it’s best to avoid using the public Wi-Fi network.
  • Seriously, don’t use public Wi-Fi
    If you must, use a VPN.
Updated on October 12, 2018

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