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Is Using Public Wi-Fi A Security Risk?

Here's what you need to know in order to make sure your information is safe while you're browsing on public Wi-Fi connections.

By Leah Becerra | September 17, 2015

Here’s a question: Is using public Wi-Fi a security risk?

Using a public source of wireless Internet can compromise your security under certain circumstances.

The fact the network is open means someone with the right skills could compromise your security by snooping or planting malicious content on other machines attached to the same hub. (Video via FTC)

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That said, it will always be better for you if the location’s Wi-Fi has beefed up security. A good indicator for that is if you need a password to get access.

But having a password doesn’t guarantee anything — which is why we have some tips that can help keep your information safe during your public Wi-Fi escapades.

Before you ever have to log in to a public hotspot, make sure your device’s software is up to date and use any extra layers of security your online accounts might offer. This would be something like two-factor authentication or security questions. (Video via Google)

Having a virtual private network, or VPN, on your devices is also a good idea if you know you’re going to be using public Wi-Fi at any point in the future. But if you didn’t have the opportunity to plan that far ahead, go into your settings and try turning off file sharing. That can save you from unwanted connections. (Video via Spotflux)

When you’re looking for the right network to connect to, make sure you’re connecting to legitimate ones. So, not the one that says “free Wi-Fi” and doesn’t require a password. 

After you’re on a safe public Wi-Fi source, pay attention to sites’ URLS. If you see “https” or a lock icon, that means the site you’re visiting is more secure thanks to an encrypted line of communication between your browser and the website.

Also, be smart about the sites you browse while connected to public networks. For example, it’s probably not wise to do any personal banking or enter credit card numbers on those connections.

When you’re done browsing, log out of the sites you signed in to. And forget the network, so the next time you’re in the area, your devices won’t automatically connect without your knowledge.

If you’ve got a question you want to ask Newsy, leave it in the comments below, tweet at us with the hashtag #AskNewsy or just email us. 

This video contains images by Charleston’s TheDigitel / CC BY 2.0Ken Hawkins / CC BY 2.0Yahoo / CC BY 2.0 and Erin Pettigrew / CC BY 2.0.

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