Across the globe, June 20 is celebrated as the World Wi-Fi Day, an initiative by The Wireless Broadband Alliance. The initiative hopes to recognize and celebrate the significance of Wi-Fi in connecting cities and communities across the world. Under PM Modi’s Digital India project, Wi-Fi is being treated as a basic amenity that each individual must have access. From Google’s free Wi-Fi project across railway stations, Reliance Jio’s high-speed Jionet, to BSNL Wi-Fi zones at almost 30 monuments, these initiatives aim to bring free or affordable internet access to citizens. Also Read - Oppo patents phone with support for Li-Fi technologyAlso Read - Qualcomm launches new Wi-Fi 6E enabled chips for smartphones and routers
The way we connect to public Wi-Fi networks have largely undergone a change as well. Earlier, you had to approach the owner who would hand over the password, often written on a chit of paper. These days however, one can easily and safely connect to a network using the two-step authentication pin. You simply provide your phone number, receive an OTP code, which can be used to connect to the Wi-Fi network. Also Read - Xiaomi AX1800 WiFi 6 router launched with a quad-core Qualcomm chip and built-in NPU
But connecting and browsing on a public network has its share of pitfalls, especially when it comes to privacy and security. With that in mind here are 10 tips that you should keep in mind when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network.
Know your Wi-Fi: First of all, a user must know this by rule, when connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot and the network does not ask for a WPA and WPA2 password, in all probability the network isn t secure.
Encryption is a must: When sending emails, photos and videos, using social media platforms, or banking online, a user sends personal information over the internet. In order to protect the information shared on wireless networks, a user must ensure sending information only to fully encrypted websites. Mobile apps that require personal or financial information must be avoided.
In order to figure out if a website is encrypted or not, one must look for https in the web address, wherein the s stands for secure. However, it is important to note that some websites are encrypted only during the login, which can leave the entire user account vulnerable. Therefore, ensure every page you visit has https in the address.
Network data for smartphones: On a smartphone though, the https rule wouldn t work, as mobile sites do not have a visible indicator like https. It is always suggested that a user must access vital information on smartphone only when using a secure internet network or on mobile data network. However, if you must use an unsecured public wireless network, make sure to use a website instead of a mobile app, so you can check for the https before a web address.
Never forget to logout: Other than ensuring if the websites are encrypted, a user must keep a few more things in mind to protect their information. To begin with, always log out immediately after you are done using an account. This also leads to the fact that you must not use same passwords for different accounts, if by chance anybody gets access to one of your passwords, your other accounts are automatically available to them. Here are a few tips on how to create strong passwords.
Make changes to your Wi-Fi settings: Consider changing settings on your mobile device so it doesn t automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi. That way, a user has more control over when and how a device connects to public Wi-Fi. Whenever not in use, turn off the Wi-Fi.
Add-ons are good: Additionally, installing add-ons and plug-ins can really help securing user information. Add-ons like HTTPS-Everywhere on Firefox or Quick Encrypt on Google Chrome force a browser to use encryption on websites.
Say no to sharing: A few changes in a user s computer settings can also prove to be of great help. Whenever on public Wi-Fi, a user must make sure to turn off sharing on their computer. When on home network, most users enable file sharing, and access to printers and account logins, however, on public networks, this absolutely needs to be turned off at all time.
On Windows, users can go to Network and Internet Settings in Control Panel, which would lead them to Network Sharing Centre, there Change Advanced Sharing setting, a user can turn off file and printer sharing. On OS X (or macOS as it is now known), under Sharing in System preferences, a user must uncheck all boxes under sharing preferences.
Always disable network discovery: One must also ensure that network discovery is disabled, which prevents others from locating the machine on the network. On a Windows PC, network discovery can be turned off by un-ticking a checkbox under advanced sharing settings. On OS X, it will be called stealth mode and will be reflected under firewall’s advanced settings.
Turn that firewall on: Turning on firewalls when on public network is also a good practice. That way you can keep unknown local users from peeking into your computer. In case of Windows, this can be done by going to Windows Firewall option in System and Security under Control Panel. On OS X, Firewall option sits in Security and Privacy settings in System Preferences.
Consider VPNs: Even after all precautions, the truth is not all websites are encrypted. In such cases, it is wise to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These services let a user route all their activity through a separate secure, private network, thus giving the security of a private network on a public one. Browsers like Opera come integrated with VPN support.