Thanks to expensive data overage fees, you might be tempted to log onto that free public Wi-Fi service while you’re out and about. Don’t let convenience outweigh the consequences, though.
“Think about the cost of being connected all the time. Nothing is free,” David Lee, a product manager for Norton, told CNBC. “The biggest threat is your data, traffic, and identity could be completely exposed.” The Harvard Business Review agrees: “You’re rolling the dice every time you log on to a free network in a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or airport lounge.”
Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the dangers associated with this bad habit. According to a survey by cybersecurity company Symantic, 87 percent of U.S. consumers have used a public internet connection. And a privatewifi.com poll found that over 70 percent of respondents checked their personal email through public Wi-Fi, while 11 percent logged onto their online banking account. (Memorize the best ways to protect yourself online right now.)
No matter how safe the Wi-Fi connection seems to be, using it leaves your computer or smartphone vulnerable to hackers and data thieves. You don’t really know who owns and monitors that router, nor who has access to the data that passes through it. Not to mention, hackers have dozens of ways to compromise public Wi-Fi accounts, from creating a network that appears legitimate to creating pop-ups that trick the user into downloading malware onto their computers. These are all of the tricks hackers use to hack your Internet security.
To protect yourself against hackers, experts say your best defense is a virtual private network (VPN), which encrypts your online activity. You can download your very own VPN through an app for Apple or Android gadgets, or by using the free encryption service CyberGhost. Setting up firewalls and antivirus software will also defend your computer against hackers and malware. But before you even start browsing, use this website to make a foolproof password that keeps you safe from hackers.