Top five public wi-fi hotspot security tips


What is a wi-fi hotspot?

A public wi-fi hotspot is a network or access point broadcast in a public place where people can gain access to the internet. There are over 4.5 million public wi-fi hotspots in the UK but they don’t all provide the same level of protection that you’re accustomed to on your own home network.

To avoid identity theft and fraud on public wi-fi security, we’ve compiled our top five guide to public wi-fi security tips including simple advice on how to use HTTPS, unique passwords and even VPN.

Protect your online ID and protecting your personal details – read our expert guides.

1) Avoid automatically connecting to unknown wi-fi hotspots

Your smartphone or tablet may be setup to automatically connect to any available wi-fi hotspot. Not only can this endanger your privacy, but this setting allows your device to connect to any network with your permission.

This could be a network that has been specifically created to steal your information. We recommend to finding the wi-fi settings on your smartphone, tablet or laptop settings and turning ‘automatic connections’ off.

2) Use HTTPS when browsing the internet

When browsing the internet, you might notice four characters, “http,” located in the address bar at the beginning of a web address. We suggest that when you type a Web address into your browser, preface it with “https” instead of the usual “http.”

This activates something called Secure Socket Layer (SSL), which is a swanky term for encrypted browser traffic. This means your internet data is translated into secret code. However, not all websites support the encryption, but if you’re using a Chrome or Firefox browser, there are specific browser plugins available called HTTPS Anywhere.

Facebook homepage final

3) Using unique passwords for shopping and social media

With so many passwords to remember for numerous websites and social media accounts, it is easy to become lax with passwords. Never use the same password for many websites; if someone accesses one account, this means they can access all your accounts. Try following our guide on how to create the perfect online password for more information.

4) Turn wi-fi off when you’re not using it

If you’ve finished looking at your favourite website, why not just turn the wi-fi connection off? Not only will this cut down the risk of someone maliciously obtaining your personal information, but it also helps to preserve battery life on your mobile device.

Some laptops feature a physical switch which is simple to turn off, and other laptop models have a ‘Function key combination. With smartphones and tablets, wi-fi can be turned off within the main settings.

5.) Last resort, use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a method of creating a secure connection to transmit private information over a public network (e.g. the internet). This means no one can spy on the information that you’re transmitting. Some VPNs can be a little complicated, or incur subscription fees, which is why we mention using it as a last resort.

We’ve discussed using a VPN app called Cloak before, which is available for iPhone, iPad and Mac, but there are other options available for Android and Windows, such as Hotspot Shield.

What are your wi-fi security tips?

So, these are just some simple steps to undertake when using public wi-fi hotspots. Do you have any additional tips and tricks to add to our top five list?

More on this…

Create account

You can leave a reply without having a WordPress account, but if you do register you can upload an avatar. A WordPress account is not connected to your Which? login and cannot be used to login to or any other Which? services.

Sign up

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *