Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Jamie Durham
IT Correspondent
4:00 AM 25th September 2021

Six Simple Ways To Protect Your Personal Data When Using Public Wi-Fi

As the world has started opening back up, more people are heading out and about to their favourite coffee shops and restaurants – meeting friends and family, and enjoying a change of scene when working from the ‘remote office’.

But if you’re thinking about using public Wi-Fi hotspots – whether in your preferred café or hotel – there are some important security considerations to think about, before you click the ‘connect’ button.

Systemwork founder, Jamie Durham, shares some top tips on how to keep your devices and data safe, if you decide to use communal Wi-Fi networks…

1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If you absolutely have to use public Wi-Fi, it’s important to use a VPN. This creates a secure, connection between your device and the internet which acts as an encrypted tunnel.

As a result, this makes your laptop, tablet, or smartphone less vulnerable to online criminals, as it’s more difficult for them to intercept your personal data and ‘listen in’ on what you’re doing.

2. Keep an eye out for the padlock

If you’re unable to gain access to a VPN, be aware of the security status of the websites you’re visiting.

For instance, look out for the letters ‘HTTPS’ at the start of a website’s address, as this means the site utilises encryption for communications – ‘HTTP’ without the ‘S’ doesn’t have this, and is therefore more vulnerable to cyber-attack, so it’s essential to be mindful of the difference.

If you can see the little green padlock at the start of a URL, then it generally means that the page is secure.

3. Update your devices regularly

Another key area not to be forgotten is keeping up to your devices’ software updates. It can be easy to postpone them if you’re busy, but you can always schedule them to take place at a time you’re not going to be using your device. And this also covers any antivirus software or firewalls you have installed.

These updates often contain important security patches and bug fixes, so they don’t just help things to run smoothly, but safely too.

4. Enable two-factor authentication

For the accounts you access regularly – be they banking, social media, retail, or email etc. – it’s worth setting up two-factor authentication (2FA).

This will give you an extra layer of security, making it trickier for unauthorised users to gain access to your passwords and profiles. This can be done by adding your mobile number or email address to your account, so that if there’s an attempted login, you have to verify its authenticity before access is granted. You can even have biometric data for this too, such as a valid fingerprint or iris scan.

5. Avoid sharing sensitive information

When using a public hotspot, it’s best to steer clear of sharing any sensitive information – such as bank details or personal data that can identify you. This should only be carried out over connections which you know are private, as that’s the best way to truly prevent hackers from getting hold of this data.

In a similar vein, it’s important to ensure you’ve turned file sharing off – while this is useful for exchanging documents and photos with friends and family, you don’t want to be giving cyber-criminals access to this.

6. Don’t forget to log off

Once you’ve finished your online tasks, it can be easy to forget to log off the network – but this step is crucial in keeping your credentials safe and sound.

Some websites store information for ease of logging in next time, but it’s also an easy way for hackers to intercept your personal details, so always log out instead of simply closing a tab or application.

If you enjoyed this article, you can also check out Jamie’s other IT-related write-ups.