How to Check If a Public WiFi Network is Safe

How to Check If a Public WiFi Network is Safe

WiFi encryption is one of the most basic and crucial security measures that everyone should take. Our cybersecurity company in Miami always verifies that the networks we work on are secure. Otherwise, data is transmitted in plain text, which opens it up to hackers.

However, if you’re out at the library or downtown and see a “free public WiFi” sign, it may be a major security risk.

How to Check if a Public WIFI Network is Safe

If you need to sign in to the WiFi with a password, you should be okay. Otherwise, anyone using third-party software may be able to see what you’re sending by “listening to your traffic.” If, for some reason, you have no other option but to use a public network, be sure that the websites you’re using use https.

You can also use a VPN network that will encrypt the data that you send.

Unless the WiFi network requires a password, it’s best to assume that it’s not safe. Hackers can snoop on the traffic, so it’s not worth the risk.

Check that the Network is Real

Hackers are intuitive. Imagine sitting down at the airport and you see a new network called “Airport Free WiFi” listed. You may assume that the network is legitimate and sign into it, not knowing that the airport doesn’t have free WiFi available.

What should you do?

Instead of trusting networks based on the name, verify with the airport that they have free WiFi. You'll also want to look for any signs indicating that there’s a network that’s available because it will be promoted as a free perk.

Turning an Insecure Network into a Secure One

If you’re away from a private network and still need an Internet connection, you can follow these tips to increase your security:

  1. Turn on your phone’s hotspot and use that instead. Many carriers offer a small amount of free data that allows you to turn your phone into a hotspot that you can use for your tablet or laptop.
  2. Use a paid VPN service. Free VPN services exist, but they may cause more of a security risk than WiFi. Many paid VPNs are available that will encrypt your data and make it safe to use the public WiFi network.

Need to use the WiFi even if it’s insecure? You can proceed at your own risk, but avoid sending any personal data, such as:

  • Credit card information
  • Name
  • Address

You'll also want to avoid logging into any financial, email or other accounts because the information may be sent to another person. Sharing personal information at this time is ill-advised. However, you can browse Google or look for the departure time for your flight so long as you don’t need to enter in any personal data.

You won’t have 100% access to the network’s settings or information unless it’s your own. Users should assume that the network is insecure and follow the tips above to avoid any pertinent data from being intercepted.

Contact us if you need cybersecurity in Miami – or the surrounding area.