Public Protector: Why open Wi Fi spells trouble for your identity 

Everybody does it these days, so don’t feel bad.

With laptops, notebooks, and iPads and tablets, working away from your desk is commonplace.  And it’s not just work either.  We all like to check our personal email and Facebook at our favorite coffee shop or café as well.

So how do you protect yourself from identity theft and other privacy risks when you’re working or just surfing the internet away from home or the office?

The most important thing when using your laptop in a public place, is taking the proper precautions when using a public WiFi network.  Before connecting to a network, make sure you know whose network you’re connecting to.  Those looking to steal your information online can set up what’s called a honeypot.  This is where thieves set up their own WiFi hotspot.  These usually have unassuming names like Public WiFi or Public Network to tempt you to connect without thinking anything of it.

To avoid this situation, make sure that you know what network you’re connecting to.  Make sure that your laptop or other device isn’t set up to automatically connect to an unknown network.  If you’re using your laptop or smartphone at a café, coffee shop, library, or other public place, find out what the public network for the location you’re in is.  If you can’t figure it out for yourself, ask an employee for the information that you need.

When you connect to websites, make sure you’re connecting via HTTPS.  This encrypts everything you send and receive from websites.  You should also use a VPN service to make sure all of the data you send over a public connection is encrypted.  VPN services do charge a fee for using them, but it’s a price worth paying.  Especially if you’re using a work computer that contains a lot of sensitive information about your company, customers, and clients.

It’s also recommended that you use two factor authentication when using a public connection.  This requires both a password and secondary code that changes regularly for websites.  The two factor authentication makes it difficult for hackers to get your information because even if they steal your password, they won’t have the secondary code.

Make sure that your computer or device isn’t configured to share access to files or be seen on public or guest networks.  You can do this by going to Settings, then going to Network and Internet, then WiFi.  From there you can scroll down and turn off file and printer sharing.

Nothing is full proof when hackers are involved but if you’re not following certain guidelines you’re just asking for trouble in the form of identity theft and putting your computer in harm’s way.