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Using Public Wi-Fi: Best Practices

July 24, 2016

Have you noticed lately that your tablet or smartphone or laptop has developed a mind of its own? Have you caught it in the act of connecting to public Wi-Fi networks all by itself? Should you let it?

It’s fun to post selfies from your fabulous vacay or work on the road without using up your phone data plan. But here’s the deal: every good network can have an evil twin. Any bad dude with a laptop or phone can set up a network and call it attwifi or xfinity, and you’ll never know they were grabbing your personal information and passwords until your computer comes down with a virus or your bank account comes down with a sudden case of empty. So don’t let your computer just hook up with any network it meets.

Using Public Wi-Fi: Best Practices

Here’s how to practice safe Wi-Fi on the road:

Keep Wi-Fi turned off except when you’re using it, and disable automatic connection in your settings.

  • Turn off the “remember this network” setting when you connect to a public Wi-Fi.
  • Avoid anything that requires a password over a public Wi-Fi connection, and that means hotels, not just airports and coffee shops.
  • If you have to do something that involves passwords or other personal information, use your phone as a hotspot. If you can’t do that, stick to websites that have “https” in their web address, because that means all communications between the website and your browser are encrypted. (The “s” stands for “secure.”) If sites you’re visiting have only “http”, try typing “https” instead to see if the site supports the secure protocol.

While you’re making up your pre-vacation checklist, add a reminder to back up your devices and get them up to date on security patches. The updates can run in the time it takes to water your plants and write up cat-feeding instructions for your neighbor, and then you can look forward to stress-free net surfing in the sun.