Your Local Cafe's Wi-Fi Might Not Be As Safe As You Think

Whether you’re using it to do some work with your side hustle, to do some present shopping in relative peace, or simply because it gets you out of the home, a lot of people take their laptop or tablet with them to a local café to relax with a drink and use the wi-fi that they have there. This doesn’t necessarily lead to disaster and you don’t need to get out of the habit entirely, but you should start being mindful about the risks involved. 

Be Careful with Which Networks You Connect To.

One of the big risks of going online in public places is that you don’t know who else has access to or control of the network. People can use shared networks to gain unauthorized access to your device, eavesdrop on the data that you send to and from it, and may even be able to hack you. For that reason, make sure that you’re connecting to the correct network. If you have to ask the establishment’s staff for the name of the network, do it. There are plenty of people who will set up networks that look legit in an effort to confuse and mislead you. Stay vigilant and only use networks that you have some degree of trust in. Don’t connect to any network that’s open.

Know Which Features to Turn Off.

As mentioned, you want to be picky with the networks that you connect your device to. As such, you should never go out and about with auto-connect turned on. This feature is available on a range of devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and, as the name implies, it will immediately connect to any network that it can, which is a very bad idea. You should also make sure to turn off any file-sharing preferences you have on your device when connecting to public Wi-Fi, such as AirDrop. Otherwise, people might be able to access certain files and folders on your device without you knowing about it.

Encrypt Your Connection.

Even if someone cannot hack or get into your device itself, by being on a shared network, they might be able to eavesdrop on the data that you’re sending and receiving, which can give away things like log-ins or sensitive information you access or send. To that end, you want to make sure that no one is able to read the data sent to and from your device, which is where encryption comes in handy. Using a VPN on public wifi allows you to encrypt your data. It also makes sure that all data you send and receive is run through another device, perhaps in another part of the world entirely, affording you a greater sense of privacy.

HTTPS Isn’t Everything That It’s Cracked Up to Be.

Traditional wisdom dictates that any time you visit a website, especially on a public or shared network, you should pay attention to the URL, to ensure it begins with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP,” an indicator that the site has a security certificate, which means it’s less likely that the data you share on it is going to be stolen or hacked. However, there are malicious actors who have been creating and procuring HTTPS certificates for illegitimate websites. As such, the best course of action is to only make use of websites that you know you can trust when you’re on public Wi-Fi, be suspicious of any links sent to you in emails that you’re not already suspecting, and know your phishing scams.

Don’t Let it Get Nabbed

Of course, if you’re in a public place, especially if you’re outdoors, there is always the risk of plain old-fashioned theft. Someone could pick up your laptop and run while you’re distracted, or try to slip away with the bag containing it. First of all, never leave your device unsecured, and keep a grasp on it if you’re looking elsewhere. You can also consider installing a tracking device inside the case, or you can activate the tracking features on the device. This way, even if it does get stolen, you might be able to find it again with the help of the police and hold those responsible to account. 

Keep the tips above in mind, or even write them down if you need to, and protect yourself. You don’t want your sensitive data getting out into the world, so don’t give anyone the keys to do just that