Data breaches come in many different shapes and sizes. Everyone knows about the big hacks that affect millions of people. Fewer people may be familiar with having their device hacked when using unsecured public WiFi at a local coffee shop. You can take measures with a VPN to prevent being hacked when using public WiFi.
This is a serious issue because so many people today use mobile devices for Internet access. They are also apt to access the Internet in more places with WiFi networks. Just think about all of the apps that you have on your phone or tablet which contain sensitive data.
Being Careful With Shady WiFi Connections
Think about some of the places in your local town that offer free Internet access via an unsecured WiFi network. Are all of them reputable? What about when you travel? Do you frequently leave your home country or state to work in other locations? Do you have confidence in the WiFi networks that you use?
These are sobering questions. As you were thinking about the answers you may have already realized that public WiFi can be a problem in many ways. When a local coffee shop or other establishment offers free WiFi, they sometimes do a poor job of monitoring who has access. Some don’t even bother to monitor at all.
Take a drive through your city. Scan for available wireless networks and you will probably encounter a large list of unsecured connections. Each of these offers the potential for a hack and the exposure of your personal browsing data.
Data Collection With Unsecured Coffee Shop WiFi
Here’s another thing that you may not have considered when using the WiFi at your favorite local hotspot. What if the owner of the business is using the WiFi to collect data about you? That could be done if your browsing activity is being tracked.
Why would this matter? They could maybe be selling the data to third-party advertising companies. They could be using it to tailor the things they provide to the people who visit their shops. The point is, do you really want your data to be available on such a scale? Probably not.
Public WiFi Networks Are Targets
You know enough now to know that unsecured public WiFi networks are vulnerable to data theft. Do you think the hackers are any less informed? Trust us when we say that the unsecured WiFi access points in your neighborhood are targets for anyone that is looking to steal your data.
The presence of an unsecured Internet connection represents low hanging fruit for the hacker. They don’t have to work very hard to compromise these networks. The data that they can access is also vast, ranging from addresses and birth dates to credit card numbers and banking info. Those who traffic in this type of theft are wise to all the types of data they can collect, and they know where to look.
Hackers also understand that those who fall victim to a hack are generally those who fail in some specific areas. These are using unsecured connections, failure to secure personal devices, and staying off the hacker’s radar. In fact, making yourself an easy target for hackers is the worst sin of all.
Some people are at greater risk of being hacked than others. These would include the expat or foreign worker. These individuals often depend upon WiFi at coffee shops and other place to get their work done when they are abroad.
Protecting Yourself When Using Public WiFi
When we are asked about the best way that someone can protect themselves while using public WiFi, we always recommend a VPN. This isn’t just because we are VPN providers. We know enough to understand that a VPN connection is one of the best lines of defense when you are browsing unsecured networks.
It all rests in how the VPN is designed and how it works. The VPN creates an encrypted tunnel, and your data passes through that tunnel. VPNs are very effective when you are using an unsecured public WiFi network that does not present a particularly nefarious situation. If you believe that there are serious threats beyond the presence of hackers, you may want to think about additional security measures as well.
As a general rule, a VPN account is enough to give you peace of mind when you are on an unsecured network. But there are things you need to consider before you choose a VPN provider and purchase a plan.
A large number of VPN servers in many different locations can be useful for the person who travels and works abroad. Having more server locations means that you will be able to more easily avoid a geographical block or restriction. Some countries restrict content. Your US Hulu account or US Netflix may not be available when you reach the Middle East. A VPN can help to restore that access.
You also want to make sure that you are using a device which is compatible with a VPN. The good news today is that pretty much all devices have a VPN client that is already installed. You don’t need to download any software to use a VPN on your device. We even have convenient apps that make it easier to use our VPNs with a phone or a tablet.
Configuring your VPN is a simple matter. All you need to do is follow the instructions on the app and enter the credentials that have been provided to you. It only takes a matter of minutes to be set up for secure browsing.
Be Smart and Discrete When Using Unsecured Public WiFi
A final suggestion when you are using public WiFi is to be discrete and wise. You don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and appear like someone that has valuable data to steal. Don’t flaunt wealth, don’t make a big production, and focus on handling your business.
No security measures are effective when you are not making an active attempt to minimize the security threats that you may encounter. It goes without saying that you should make every effort to validate the protections, if any, that are offered by your chosen WiFi networks. Some coffee shops do make an effort to secure their connections to some degree.
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