When you’re out and about, it’s often easier to get online using a Wi-Fi network than your mobile data. For example, you might log on to a public Wi-Fi hotspot so that you can check your email on the go or stream videos without burning through your cellular data plan. Wi-Fi hotspots come in many different flavors, but the most common are known as Wireless LAN (WLAN) hotspots. These are networks set up by individuals or businesses that allow users to get online by connecting their mobile devices to the network. Here’s what you need to know before getting connected in any public space with a Wi-Fi network.
How to Protect Yourself When Using Public Wi-Fi
If you’re connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, it’s crucial to protect your devices and your data by following a few key steps—like always using encryption and checking the security certificate for the network. We recommend that you use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.
A free VPN can help protect your data when you’re on Wi-Fi by creating a secure “tunnel” between your device and the VPN server. This tunnel encrypts all of the data traveling between your device and the server, preventing others from seeing your information. VPNs are also useful when you’re traveling abroad and connecting to Wi-Fi networks that you don’t fully trust. Always make sure that you’re connecting to a VPN for Windows that has top-notch security and a strong no-logging policy.
Check the Security Certificate
When you connect to a Wi-Fi network, your device will display the network’s name and security certificate. The “security certificate” is essentially a digital ID that identifies the network and shows whether it’s safe to use. If you see an Un-trusted or Invalid certificate when connected to a Wi-Fi network that’s a big red flag. This means that the Wi-Fi network doesn’t use a valid security certificate and that you shouldn’t connect to it.
If you see “valid” and “trustworthy” when connecting to a Wi-Fi network, however, that’s not always a good thing. Some public networks use “self-signed” certificates, which means that the Wi-Fi network doesn’t use an outside vendor to confirm the network’s identity. Don’t automatically trust the network certification. Make sure that you’re connecting to a network that uses a valid, outside certificate.
Check Who Managed the Network
The easiest way to tell who manages a Wi-Fi network is to look for the network name. Most networks have a name, and sometimes they even list the name of the company that manages the network. If the network name isn’t listed, you can try visiting the Wi-Fi network settings on your phone and looking for the “network owner” field. This information is usually listed in the Wi-Fi network settings, so you can usually access it by visiting Settings on your phone and then clicking Wi-Fi.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi to Log In to Important Accounts
Always avoid logging in to your important accounts, like Gmail, Facebook, or online banking, while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. But if you’re using iTop VPN to protect your data, and public Wi-Fi networks then you are at the right place.
Public Wi-Fi networks are convenient and plentiful, but they can also be dangerous. Using public Wi-Fi is like swimming in a lake full of sharks, and as you know, you can never be 100% certain that no one is snooping on your activity. To protect you, always use encryption, check the security certificate, and check who managed the network.