What Is Public WiFi? Is It Safe?

Free WiFi sign on wooden post

Sometimes, it seems as if the world is going wireless. More people use mobile devices and WiFi connections to go online for social media, emailing, shopping, banking, and more. But what do you know about public WiFi? Is it safe to use? How does it work on your device? This article will answer these questions and more!

What Is Public WiFi?

Public WiFi is a wireless internet connection that can be accessed by the general public. This type of network offers access to anyone who just needs an Internet connection, whether they’re at work, school, or in a coffee shop.

In addition to personal computers and laptops, this kind of wireless network allows you to connect to other devices like smartphones and tablets.

What Is It Used For?

Public WiFi can be incredibly convenient if you’re traveling and don’t have access to a cellular network, or your plan doesn’t include data usage. Using a wireless connection can also reduce the amount of battery power your mobile device uses since it doesn’t have to search for available cell towers constantly.

Where Do I Find Public WiFi?

You’ll often find free public WiFi networks in places like airports, hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants. However, some public places may charge a fee for using their wireless Internet connection instead of offering it for free to the general public.

Is Public WiFi Safe?

Public WiFi can be a great way to stay connected. However, there are some potential risks and concerns with using wireless internet in public places.

WiFi Snooping

WiFi snooping is the act of monitoring information that’s passed over a wireless network, usually to steal it. It can be done either by someone with access to the network or by someone outside of the network who hacks his way in.

For instance, if you’re connected to public WiFi, and somebody else has hacked into the router, they could monitor what you’re doing on your devices while sitting in his car down the street – even though he isn’t physically connected to the WiFi network. The security implications are obvious: anyone who can hack into a wireless connection can see everything that passes through it.

Malicious Hotspots

Malicious hotspots are exactly what they sound like. They’re wireless networks set up by hackers to dupe unsuspecting users into connecting. Once people do, the hacker can monitor anything that’s passed through them (passwords, emails, credit card numbers).

These networks aren’t going out of their way to attract victims – they just sit there, waiting to be discovered by someone who needs a wireless connection.

Malware Distribution

Public WiFi networks are often used for distributing malware. Hackers can inject malware into the data stream of a public WiFi network and force all devices in range to download it silently.

This is particularly nefarious because most people don’t know that they’re on an infected wireless network until their device starts acting strangely or performing slowly. This type of attack is particularly common in airports, which have large numbers of people connecting through public WiFi regularly.

How to Use Public WiFi Safely?

Free Wifi Sign on mirror

Use VPN

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a tool that takes your device’s connection and makes it more secure, so if you do use public WiFi, this would be the best way to stay safe. It encrypts all of the data coming in and out of your device before it reaches any networks other than your own private network – meaning hackers wouldn’t be able to see what you’re doing.

VPNs come in many different forms: some are free (but much slower), while others require a monthly payment for faster speeds and better security. This is probably your best bet if you need to access the internet regularly when out and about.

Do Not Share Any Personal Data or Input Sensitive Information

To stay safe from WiFi snooping, you should avoid sharing any personal data over public WiFi networks. Public WiFi is the perfect breeding ground for hackers and bots that gather information to steal identities or financial information.

You never know what might be going on behind a wireless connection – which means it’s best not to risk sending anything sensitive.

Make Sure the Website You Visit Uses HTTPS

You can also help protect yourself by making sure the website you’re using over public WiFi uses an encrypted connection. If it doesn’t, any information passed between your device and that site will be sent in plain text, which means anyone connected to the same network as you could easily see what’s being said or done.

You should always look for “HTTPS” at the beginning of a website’s web address – if you see “HTTPS,” it means your information is protected.

Stick to Cellular Network

If you do need to access the internet regularly, it’s best if you stick with cellular data. Cellular networks are much more secure than public wireless connections – mainly because each person using them is assigned an individual connection instead of sharing one.

You can’t make your device truly 100% safe from hackers or malware, but these tips should help you stay a little safer while you’re out. And only use public WiFi for emergency purposes – anything else isn’t worth the risk.

What’s the Difference Between Public WiFi and Personal Hotspots?

It can be easy to confuse public WiFi with personal hotspots because both allow your device to connect wirelessly, but they’re actually very different things. A personal hotspot is also known as a mobile hotspot or wireless hotspot, and they’re usually created using a cell phone or tablet’s internet connection.

As the name suggests, this is your own private network that you can connect to at any time (and disconnect from when necessary).

Public WiFi isn’t like personal hotspots; it’s an accessible public network with open access for anyone who needs it.

Conclusion

Public WiFi can be helpful in many different ways, but it comes with its own set of risks. If you want to stay safe while using public networks, VPNs and encrypted connections are your best options. If you do need to access the internet regularly, stick with cellular networks as they’re much more secure than public WiFi.

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