Free Wi-Fi is available wherever we go, from the local coffee shop to the hotels and airports you visit while traveling. Wi-Fi has made our lives a little easier and more connected, but it also raises some security risks to the personal information we keep on our mobile devices whenever we connect to free public Wi-Fi.

The Two Types of Public Wi-Fi

There are basically two kinds of public Wi-Fi networks: secured and unsecured. Unsecured networks can be connected to within range and without any type of security feature like a password or login. A secured network requires a user to agree to legal terms, register an account, or type in a password before connecting to the network. It may also require a fee or store purchase to be made to gain access to the password or network.

Regardless of the connection type, when you connect to public Wi-Fi you should always be cautious and take these essential steps to stay safe:

Always connect to secured public networks whenever possible. If you cannot connect to a secured network, using an unsecured network would be permissible if the connection requires some sort of login or registration.

Never access personal bank accounts, or sensitive personal data when connected to unsecured public networks. Use your best judgment if you must access these accounts on public Wi-Fi.

Monitor your Bluetooth connectivity. Having Bluetooth in the home is an amazing feature on many smart devices. However, leaving Bluetooth on while in public places can pose a huge risk to your cyber safety. Bluetooth connectivity allows various devices to communicate with each other, and a hacker could look for open Bluetooth signals to gain access to your devices. Keep this function on your phone and other devices locked down when you leave your home, office, or similar secured area.

Avoid shopping online when using public Wi-Fi. Shopping might not seem like it involves sensitive data, but making purchases online requires personal information to be transferred that could include bank account and retailer login credentials. Shopping is something you want to avoid on an unsecured Wi-Fi network.

Never leave your laptop, tablet, or smartphone unattended in a public place especially if you’re in an unfamiliar place. Even if you’re working on a secure Wi-Fi network, that won’t stop someone from taking your property or sneaking a peek at your device or personal files.

Always turn off the automatic connectivity feature on your device. Most smartphones, laptops, and tablets have automatic connectivity settings, which allow you to seamlessly connect from one hotspot to the next without having to login all the time. While it’s a convenient feature, but it can also connect your devices to networks you ordinarily would not use. Keep these settings turned off, especially when you’re traveling to unfamiliar places.

Use a VPN solution to ensure your privacy and anonymity are protected when you use public Wi-Fi. A virtual private network like Norton WiFi Privacy, can encrypt all the data that you send and receive while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, securing your information to prevent other users on the same connection from accessing.

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