To Browse or Not to Browse? Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi

6 November 2015

As the proliferation of mobile devices has made constant Internet connectivity ubiquitous, public wi-fi networks have popped up in coffee shops, hotels and parks around the world to feed our insatiable appetite for the Web. While these free-to-use networks have made browsing in public as convenient and routine as it is in your own home, the former is in fact far less secure than the latter — and although people who are used to universal connectivity may not think twice about surfing the Web on a public network, it can actually put them at a high risk of identity theft.

Here’s how it works:

In a wi-fi network, data is transmitted in the form of a simple radio wave. Even if a network requires a password to access, another person can log into their own session and use eavesdropping software to listen in to your computer’s “conversation” with the network as easily as tuning a radio to pick up a signal from a specific station. In this manner, identity thieves can secretly monitor the websites you visit and steal whatever information you use when browsing, such as login credentials or financial information, without you knowing.

To keep your personal data safe next time you log onto a public network, keep these tips in mind:

Watch what sites you visit

While it can be nice to relax by surfing the Web in public, hold off on visiting any sites that require you to log in with a username and password, like your bank or other financial institutions, social networking sites or email until you get home to your private network.

Keep an eye on your surroundings

As you have your laptop open in a coffee shop, hotel lobby or airport, you never know who could be looking over your shoulder. Before you launch your browser, take a minute to make sure you’re not in a position where any unwanted eyes could linger on your keyboard or screen.

Browse through a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) keeps your browsing activity private, even on public wi-fi, by creating a network-within-a-network. VPNs process your online behavior separately, which can keep you invisible to others on the public network. Using a VPN, you can check whatever sites you need to without worrying about the security of the specific wi-fi network to which you are connected.

While smart surfing can limit the chances an identity thief targets you, there is unfortunately no surefire way to protect yourself from identity theft. By signing up for a credit monitoring service, however, you can be sure to receive alerts if there is certain activity on your credit file that could indicate credit fraud. The sooner you are notified of this behavior the quicker you can take action against identity thieves, such as cancelling your cards and freezing your credit. To sign up, contact Identity Guard today!