How to Safely Use Public Wi-Fi

In today’s world, we are used to having the internet at our fingertips. Whether we are out shopping, at the gym, posting a selfie from a trip, or catching up on work at the local coffee shop, it is easy and convenient to connect to a public Wi-Fi network. While it is second nature to automatically pull up the internet everywhere we go, it would not be so convenient if your information was stolen while surfing the web.  

Phishing scams have become a cybersecurity trend that is more and more common, which is why it is key to practice internet safety while using your phone outside the home.

Tips to remember when using public Wi-Fi 

Check Your Connections 

  • Take an extra moment to double-check the network you’re joining. Make sure it is the correct network and name before you start surfing the web.  
  • Most devices auto-connect to Wi-Fi networks when they are in the vicinity. Go into your device’s settings to turn this feature off and select ‘Forget Network’ when you want to disconnect the Wi-Fi as an extra precaution.  
  • A Virtual Private Network, otherwise known as a VPN, provides an extra layer of security to your internet connection by encrypting your data when on a public network. Some VPNs are free, but it might be worth the protection to pay for a VPN from a trusted provider.  

Protect your online accounts

  • Set unique passwords for all your accounts that are hard for cybercriminals to crack and update them regularly.
    • Never write down your passwords. Instead, opt for using a password manager. These programs store your usernames and passwords in a secure, encrypted database.
  • Whenever possible, utilize Two-Step Authentication for your accounts. Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.
  • Don’t forget to log out of your accounts when you’re done browsing. 

Keep your information and devices protected 

  • The constant device updates may get annoying, but they are crucial to have when browsing the web publicly. The updates often include additional security against public Wi-Fi threats, so make sure your software is up to date before you log on. 
  • Look into antivirus protection or check that your subscription is current and active on all your devices. 
  • A privacy screen for your device can also help block sensitive information from prying eyes when in public.  
  • Avoid logging into accounts with sensitive information such as banking, credit reports, or paying a bill when you’re off your private network.  

Keep an eye out for scammers

  • Website addresses that begin with “https” and have a lock icon are supposed to indicate they are safe to visit and encrypt visitors’ data. Unfortunately, scammers have begun luring users into sites that appear safe when they’re not. Avoid falling for a phishing scam by questioning and double-checking all links before you click on them.  
  • If you suspect you’ve caught a scammer, you can report them here: 

To stay alert and defensive against everchanging phishing scams, visit our Cybersecurity Learning Center or talk to your local Rural Mutual agent