8 Simple Ways To Protect Yourself On Public Wi-Fi

Pappi Hex

Public Wi-Fi has become very popular today, and while you're out and about traveling, taking online classes, or working remotely, there's a huge chance that you might have used it before. Gone are the days when you go online to Google for "free Wi-Fi near me". These days, you tend to find them everywhere, in restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, malls, public transport, and many other public places.

A Public Wi-Fi network will give you free access to the Internet and as well, save you some money that you would have used to purchase cellular data. Not to mention that these free Wi-Fi networks can come in handy when you have an urgent email, assignment, or emergency to attend to.

But how safe is public Wi-Fi? And what are the dangers of using public Wi-Fi connections?

Well, for starters, these networks are less secure than your personal cellular Internet connection because you don't know the other people connected to it and their motives. In fact, chances are that the security on that free Wi-Fi network to which you are connected is either weak or non-existent. So this leaves you vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In this guide, I will discuss the dangers of public Wi-Fi and how to stay safe and protect your data from hackers and other forms of threats.

What Security Risk Does A Public Wi-Fi Connection Pose?

A public Wi-Fi network with a captive portal is more secure than the ones that don't require a password or login, since they can be accessed by anyone, including hackers. These kinds of networks are easy targets for hackers.

But then, even a public Wi-Fi network with a captive portal will still pose a number of risks to unsuspecting users once a bad actor has access to the network. Now, let's look at some Wi-Fi security risks.

Man-in-the-middle attacks:

Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack is one of the popular threats used by hackers on public Wi-Fi networks. MITM attack is a form of eavesdropping that allows a hacker to intercept any data sent from your smartphone or PC connected to the public Wi-Fi network. 

This way, the hacker will be able to harvest and read your passwords, and login details, and might as well hijack your accounts, and banking information or even impersonate you. 


Yes, malware programs can easily be spread via Wi-Fi networks to all the connected gadgets without the users knowing. Once one of the connected devices on the network gets infected and the hacker has control of it, the infected device can be used as a host and the Wi-Fi as a medium to infect others on the network.

This malware can slow down the Internet connection, and as well, steal users' data by hijacking their sessions.

Also Read: 

How To Stay Safe On Public Wi-Fi

Now that we've looked at the dangers associated with public Wi-Fi networks, you might be wondering how to use public Wi-Fi safely. But don't worry for we have several tips you can follow and protect yourself on any public wireless network.


All that I've highlighted here doesn't necessarily mean that all public wireless networks are dangerous or unsafe. It's just a reminder that you should always take precaution when using such networks.

1. Use a VPN: 

The first thing that I would recommend to anyone that wants to use public Wi-Fi is to install a VPN or Virtual Private Network client on their device. 

So does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi? Short answer, yes. A VPN will simply minimize the security risks by encrypting the data leaving and those coming into your device by channeling it via a secure server. This way, anyone connected to the same Wi-Fi network as you won't be able to steal your data or see what you're doing. In fact, a VPN does more than just encrypt your connection and protect you from hackers. There are many uses of a VPN that will surprise you.

2. Stick to HTTPS sites alone:

Always ensure to only stick to websites that have an SSL certificate. So why is this important? When you surf on a website that has an SSL certificate, cybercriminals on the same network as you won't be able to see to snoop on what you are doing. 

Websites that have an SSL certificate usually have "HTTPS" at the beginning of the URL, while the ones with no encryption have "HTTP" instead. 

3. Avoid sensitive information:

Be careful of what you do when connected to public Wi-Fi. It's okay to surf the web for news, videos, and other things that don't involve you giving out your sensitive information.

Avoid making a purchase that involves you typing your credit or debit card details. Also, avoid any signups or log-ins that demand you type in passwords or reveal some personal details.  

4. Turn off file sharing:

You don't want any random stranger to access your private information right? Then simply turn off file sharing. With file sharing on, anyone on that public network could access your private folders and do whatever they want with your files!

To turn off file sharing on a PC, go to Network and Sharing Center, Change advanced sharing settings, and then Turn off file and printer sharing. To do the same on Macs, go to System Preferences, click on Sharing, and then unselect everything.

5. Get an antivirus software:

Antivirus software will help reduce the threats of spyware, malware, and other security threats on public Wi-Fi. It will also scan your device for known potential threats that might be hiding in plain sight.

6. Change your Wi-Fi settings:

It is very important to set the wireless connection on your device to not automatically connect to any available public hotspots. When your Wi-Fi is set to "connect automatically" to available open networks, your device might connect to a harmful network without your knowledge which will, in turn, give bad actors enough time to steal private data from your device.

Also, you can forget open networks that you've connected to in the past so that your smartphone or PC won't automatically reconnect to that network when you're within close range.

7. Update to the latest operating system:

Always check for the latest OS update available for your device. Why is this important? When you update your gadgets to the most recent, you are sure to get the latest security patches that will protect your device from harm or new exploits in the wide.

8. Always read what you are signing up for:

This is the last on the list but not the least either. I made this one the last because many of us fail in this part. Before you start using any public Wi-Fi connection, ensure to read the attached terms and conditions to know what you are signing up for. It's not every Wi-Fi that is truly free.

When you read the policies and conditions on the network that you are about to use, you will have an idea of the data that is being collected, its use, and any potential red flags. Also, you can do a quick look-up on the Internet for terms that you don't understand.


Free public Wi-Fi is tempting. I mean, who wouldn't want a free Internet connection at no cost? No one. If you follow the steps in this article, your security level will be high and thus, minimizing the risk of getting hacked.


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