Whether your favorite hotspot is at McDonalds, Starbucks, or your local library, there are some things that you should know about before you hop on public Wi-Fi and surf the web like it’s business as usual. If you are going to log into an account, use a credit card, or shop while on a public network, here are a few things you should think about concerning Wi-Fi security.

  1. Hackers Love Public Wi-Fi

Why take the chance of hacking a secure network when you can sit in the corner with your coffee and laptop and steal tons of passwords, credit card numbers, and bank accounts from an open network? Hackers are opportunists. Never assume you’re on a public network alone, even if you don’t see anyone. Someone could just as easily be in the parking lot in a car.

  1. Check Your Credentials

Does the Internet at your favorite coffee shop require a password? Either way, you will want to know the SSID. Make sure you are logging onto the right network. A sly scam that hackers pull off regularly is creating an SSID that seems legit. For example, “Free Airport WiFi.” You connect, thinking that the airport has gotten generous. Now you are on the hacker’s Wi-Fi network, and every keystroke you make is being logged.

  1. Use a VPN

If you need to shop, bank, or do anything with your credit cards on a public Wi-Fi network, we strongly recommend using a VPN, or virtual private network. Most have a monthly or annual fee.  A VPN allows you to encrypt your data while you are using public Wi-Fi. Remember, most hackers are opportunists. Few will try to deal with your extra line of defense while there are easier targets around. Plus, a VPN gives you plenty of other benefits too.

In short, we’re not saying that public Wi-Fi is bad in any way. You just need to use caution due to unsavory individuals who take advantage of the lax Wi-Fi security free public networks employ.