As our society moves more and more into being dependant on the internet we get more services offered to us wherever we go. In cities and out of them up to a point major businesses offer us the chance to connect to the internet using their networks. Be it Starbucks or McDonalds or even the public library they offer what is seen as “public Wi-Fi” as a service to us. This is all very helpful but one thing you have to be aware of is the safety of your information.
Whether it’s making payments, sending emails or even just connecting to the network itself you are opening up your data for tampering, if you move information from computer to computer or don’t set up a secure enough firewall it’s possible for people to get onto your computer. The main thing is that you have to be aware of the security risk and make sure you are fully secure.
Keeping Yourself Safe on a Public Network
The most important thing to remember is to use an encrypted site for anything that is important. This should include email access and anything that includes important information about you. It may sound stupid but even Facebook and Twitter now provide secure URLs for use, and this is because your information needs protecting. The easy way to know you are on an encrypted connection to a website is to look for “Https” instead of “Http” at the start of a URL. This means that all communication between your computer and the website you are accessing will not be easy to hijack.
Always use a firewall on your computer, especially on public networks. If your computer is open to the network with file sharing enabled and no defence against access it is relatively easy for others to be able to connect and have access to your computer. This will mean that anything held on there is open to be read, copied and shred which is obviously not a good thing for you. On a more sinister level too it’s possible for people to add their own software to your computer to further hijack your internet connection (such as malware, spyware and viruses for example).
The most important thing is to be smart, turn on private browsing for example and clear out your cookies, make it hard for any information to be shared or stolen from your computer and remember just what you are doing. Using public networks is good, especially when it’s a free service but the keyword is that it’s public and not everybody can be trusted. If you are going to use a laptop or even a smartphone on a public network always be aware of the security issues and try to protect yourself the best you can. Smartphones work with you to protect you more than computers when it comes to safety so in many ways you will be more protected using these, but it’s still better to realise the potential dangers of the public network.