Wi-Fi access is common in many public spaces, including coffee shops, libraries, hotels, stores and parks. Wi-Fi is available almost anywhere you could possibly need it, making it easy to hop online and save data. However, it is important to understand the risks of using a public Wi-Fi connection and know how you can set up a private and secure network wherever you are.
Public Wi-Fi is open internet access in a public space such as a coffee shop or library. Joining public Wi-Fi is like overhearing a conversation. These networks are widely accessible, which means anyone using the network can eavesdrop on other individuals using the network.
Private networks are secure connections intended for specific individuals, often set up by your internet provider at your home or offered by your employer at an office. Private networks will require a code or login to gain access.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a secure network that transmits data through the internet. The data is encrypted, meaning the data is hidden behind a wall of code to disguise the information. VPNs are often used to increase security on public Wi-Fi or to access shared files—for example, work documents on a department drive.
Set your device to ask before it connects to an available network
Disable file and printer sharing on your device
Pay attention to the Wi-Fi network name and watch out for spoofs with a similar name (e.g., Strbucks_Guest)
Avoid signing in to accounts or entering passwords on public Wi-Fi
Never use public Wi-Fi to access or share personal data such as bank accounts or credit card numbers
Turn on your personal hotspot and connect to it instead
Use a VPN to establish a secure connection
Always choose a WPA2 network for tighter security when setting up your home network
Change the name of your network to something unique and make it invisible so people will have to search for it before they can connect
Enable and create a strong password for your network to control who can connect
Regularly check connected devices to ensure there are not any you do not recognize
Set up a separate guest network for guests and friends to use
Keep your firmware up to date
What to do
If your Wi-Fi network gets hacked at home:
- Change the admin password for your router
- Change the password for your wireless network
- Update your router's software
- Use your installed security software to scan your devices for malware
- Contact your internet service provider for additional support and advice