There’s nothing quite as convenient as logging onto the Internet while sitting at a café or enjoying your local library. But is your personal information really safe when you use public Wi-Fi? Most people don’t bother protecting their computer, but this can be a dire mistake when it comes to public Wi-Fi access.
Think about all of the personal information you have stored on your computer – bank account numbers, passwords, and personal identification details. Now, consider how devastated you would be if someone were to write down all of that information, photocopy it, and send it to everyone in your state.
If you think that this seems a bit drastic, think again. Public Wi-Fi spots are entirely insecure and can lead to identity theft. This means that anyone can jump onto the same connection that you are using, snatch your information, and do whatever they like with your personal details.
There’s no doubt that allowing hundreds of people access to your personal information is scary, but (thankfully) there are a few things that you can do in order to protect your private details. Start by making sure that your computer is adequately protected against theft.
Purchase a tried-and-true firewall program. Many different companies (including McAfee and Norton) offer excellent firewall programs. If someone attempts to break into your computer, these programs will send you an automatic alert while defending your personal information.
No matter what the circumstances may be, try and avoid accessing bank accounts, credit cards, or any other personal site while using a public Wi-Fi connection. Even though a great firewall program can keep your computer safe, these programs can’t protect information that you willingly send out into the world.
In most instances, you don’t need to use a computer to find out how much money you have in your bank account or whether your credit card has reached its limit. Wait until you arrive at your home before you attempt to gather this kind of information.
HTTP vs. HTTPS
Lastly, if you desperately need to access something private while using a public Wi-Fi connection, learn the difference between HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) sites and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) sites. Contrary to popular belief, HTTP and HTTPS are not the same in any manner.
An HTTP website passes information between you and a web server. Under no circumstances are HTTP sites secure. Contrastingly, HTTPS sites use a secure code that cannot be hacked or viewed by anyone else. Thus, using an HTTPS site – look at the web address at the top of the screen to know for sure – is the only way to go if you are using an insecure Wi-Fi connection.
Play it safe
Public Wi-Fi spots are great when you need to look at a map, research a location, or kill some time. Just make sure that you aren’t allowing everyone in the room to take a gander at your personal life. By following the steps listed above, you can ensure that your computer will be safe from the wandering eyes of hackers.