The Hidden Costs of Free Wi-Fi

Many of us benefit from having access to the internet wherever we go throughout the day. It can be tempting to connect to one of the countless free Wi-Fi hotspots.

However, connecting to public Wi-Fi introduces numerous security risks. It’s easy enough for anyone in range to monitor the traffic and harvest your login credentials for email, social media accounts, online banking, or worse. For instance, do you connect to a web portal for work and businesses purposes? Monitoring the traffic is just the beginning; the unscrupulous can leverage this invasion of privacy into a much more sophisticated long term attack.

I won’t go too far into the technical details here, but you can read more at StaySafeOnline.org. Their blog post recommends using a VPN. While the guest author clearly favors his own product, this is still great advice if you’re comfortable setting up a VPN service and know you’ll use it consistently.

Here are a few more ways to protect yourself:

  • Disable automatic connection to wireless networks in the settings on your phone and computer.
  • Make sure you’re connecting to websites using SSL whenever possible. You’ll know when you see a lock icon and https:// in your browser’s address bar.
  • Disable file sharing on your device when you’re not using it.
  • Clear your cache, cookies, and saved passwords before you leave home . Make sure your browser settings are configured to disable saving these automatically.

These are important steps, but I recommend you go a step further. Determine which cell service provider offers the fastest data connection with the widest coverage in your area. Get yourself a plan that will cover your monthly data usage. Make sure to pay close attention to what you’re getting; many plans claim “unlimited data” but will throttle your connection speed after 2-4 gigabytes. It’s good to go with a larger fixed amount with consistent speed.

You can enable the “tethering” feature on your phone and use your data plan via USB connection to the phone or turning it into a secure Wi-Fi hotspot. The USB connection is more secure, but you’re limited to one connected device. If you prefer the Wi-Fi option, you should look into the standalone hotspot devices offered by your chosen service provider. This typically provides a stronger signal for the Wi-Fi hotspot and your connection to the cell network.

Each device and service plan is different, so please feel free to contact us if you have questions or would like help assessing your needs before making any purchases.

 

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