With so many people on-the-go with their smart phones, tablets, and laptops, public Wi-Fi is available nearly everywhere. As convenient as public Wi-Fi can be, there are some important things to know to protect yourself and your personal information on these networks. We’ve put together some tips from the Government of Canada on how to stay safe and limit your risk when using public Wi-Fi.

What are the risks with public Wi-Fi?

Public Wi-Fi networks can pose a risk to your data security because there are a lot of people using the same network at the same time, and not everyone on it has good intentions.

According to the Government of Canada, cyber criminals are known to creep around on Wi-Fi networks that don’t require passwords hoping to gain access to people’s information. Sometimes they will even set up networks with similar names to fool you into logging in so they can capture your personal data.

Any computer or mobile device can be vulnerable to identity theft, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re in the clear because you have a particular operating system.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Turn your Wi-Fi off when you’re not using it

It’s easy to do this and is usually just a matter of clicking the wireless icon in the menu bar to find the option to turn it off.

Turn off “auto connect” in your Wi-Fi settings

Make sure you are fully aware of any connections that take place.

Enable your firewall

This is an important step while browsing on public networks. You should also keep up to date anti-virus software on your computer.

Pay attention to detail

Watch for spelling mistakes or variations when looking for the network you want to join. For example: “Coffeehouse Public” vs. “Coffeehuose Public”.

Visit the secure HTTPS version of sites

Adjust the site URL with an extra ‘S’ in your browser’s address bar. If the ‘S’ disappears you should log out immediately.

Look out for “shoulder surfers”

Sometimes the biggest threat could be a person sitting right beside you, watching you type in your passwords.

Do sensitive browsing at home

To be on the safe side, try to do online banking and shopping from the safety of your private Wi-Fi network at home.

Log out when you’re done

This is a simple way of making sure you’re safely out of the public network.
If you think you may have been a victim of identity theft, make sure you report it to the police. You may also want to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Visit the Government of Canada page, Identity 101, for more information on what to do if you encounter identity theft.


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