A Brief Guide To The Risks And Benefits Of Open Wi-Fi

Unsecured Wi-Fi access points are convenient, but they come with their fair share of pros and cons.

Quick answer: Unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots should be used with caution, but there are several security measures available to help ensure you’re browsing safely.

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Public Wi-Fi hotspots around the world draw visitors searching for a quick and easy way to log onto the web. However, many avoid them entirely thanks to their unsecured status. This brings up an important question – is this fear valid? We’ll weigh the risks and benefits of public, unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots to help you make smart choices about where and how to connect.

The benefits

It’s tough to deny the convenience of a public Wi-Fi hotspot. These access points are invaluable when you need internet connectivity on the fly. Plus, many websites use secure connections by default, so you can rest assured that your login credentials are safe. Just be sure to look for the https:// in the address bar – emphasis on the “s” – before submitting any important information.

The risks

Benefits aside, most fears concerning unsecured Wi-Fi are valid. Unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots are called “unsecured” for a reason. That’s because they leave an array of data open for access to those with the necessary expertise. This makes it especially important to refrain from doing anything risky while you’re connected. Logging into a casual social media account on a secured URL shouldn’t pose a dire threat, but it’s best to avoid accessing banking apps, medical records, and other sensitive accounts until you’re on a private network.

Wi-Fi security guidelines

VPNs deliver a trusty line of defense by encrypting any data your phone transmits.

Public hotspots may be risky, but certain measures can help make any Wi-Fi secure. Start by making sure you’re connected to the official hotspot and not an access point with a similar name.

Once you’re connected, keep from using any login information that you wouldn’t want compromised. Brushing up on the news or conducting a Google search or two is probably fine. Logging into your credit card app, on the other hand, isn’t recommended.

If a login is necessary, only use URLs with the aforementioned https:// in the address bar. You can usually ensure this type of URL is the standard by accessing your browser’s settings and activating “Secured Browsing” or a related setting.

Another common measure is the use of a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs deliver a trusty line of defense by encrypting any data your phone transmits while on a public hotspot. They’re available on major smartphone app stores and on the Internet for use with computers and other devices.

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