In an age where just about everyone seems tethered to their smart phones and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots are a great convenience. Instead of tapping into data allotments or dealing with slower than 3G speeds, one can simply enjoy the full functionality of their device.

Wi-Fi hotspots are in so many places, that it’s noticeable when a restaurant or retailer doesn’t provide free Wi-Fi.  Like many good things in life, there’s a potential downside to Wi-Fi hotspots. Lack of security.  Hotspots are prime targets for hackers looking to steal whatever information they can so it’s important to learn how to work safely in wireless hotspots.

Not to fear, implementing a few basic practices will allow you to enjoy the convenience of a Wi-Fi hotspot, while decreasing security risks.  We’ve listed the most important below.

  1. Save Banking for Home – No doubt the internet has made keeping track of banking easier than ever. The temptation to check balances or transfer funds may be strong, but it’s always best to do those things on a secure connection. Make it a practice to check your balances and whatever information you need before leaving home.
  2. Know your Settings – There’s a reason Windows asks if the network you’re logging into is either Home, Work, or Public. Make sure you let your computer know that you’re logging onto a public network.  If you aren’t on a Windows machine or haven’t seen the option to choose, make sure you turn off all sharing features. Encrypting your data by enabling the “HTTPS” option is also recommended.
  3. Go Through a VPN – Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is highly recommended if you are doing business at a wireless hotspot. Contact either your IT department or Technology Provider if you are unsure if you have access to a VPN or if you have questions on how to connect.
  4. Don’t Connect Automatically – Often times people set their smart devices to automatically connect to WiFi hotspots they’ve used in the past. This isn’t a good practice. Make sure your device asks to connect to a hotspot each time you pass through, or manually connect when you need to use it. The last thing you want is for your device to be connecting to open networks all across town without your knowledge.
  5. Don’t Be Afraid of Going Old Fashioned – If you aren’t certain that the hotspot is legitimate and you need to book a hotel reservation or handle some quick business, ask yourself if this could be handled with a phone call rather than going online. And if there is nothing pressing in the virtual world, perhaps it would be a good time to sit back and admire the world around you.

Is it possible to guarantee 100% safety when engaging with Wi-Fi hotspots? Probably not. Does it make sense to avoid hotspots all together? Definitely not. In today’s world, the convenience far outweighs the risk, and those risks can be mitigated with some simple practices.

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