We live so much of our lives online, but we don’t always know what happens to the data we share or whose hands it ends up in. In order to have meaningful control of our online lives we have to understand our choices.
You have the power to take back control of your data, but we need a community to take back the Web.
How can we maintain public Wi-Fi security when the borderless nature of Internet forces us to adapt our actions and needs?
At the same time, we are invited to take advantage of the great number of public wireless networks we find everywhere. And this increasing level of connectivity is simply accelerated by technology and by a shifting cultural environment, in which we choose to become part of the global network infrastructure.
At the same time, we must not forget that a reliable network should provide not just high download speeds, but also other less visible elements, such as privacy and security.
If we have already instructed our users on how to improve the home network security in this article, now it is time to give you some valuable insights on how to defend your privacy on public wireless networks.
So, can we rely on a public Wi-Fi network when running financial transactions and sharing private details? The answer is simple: No, of course not. That’s because public networks can be quite easily breached by hackers and malicious software.
We know what you’re thinking: So, in case I travel or I’m in a holiday and I need Internet, should I totally avoid connecting to a FREE wireless network?
Yes, you should. Unless, you take a few security measures that can improve your online security, because it goes without saying that public networks are not safe networks, not even by far.
And if we have no choice but using them, we need to employ a few tricks or follow some general guidelines in order to avoid any possible intrusion
1. Turn off your public network sharing options
If you’re using your home or work network you may feel safe enough to allow network resources sharing, like printers or public folders, but on an unsafe public network, this is not recommended. Usually, the public wireless networks are not subjects to high levels of security and are favorite places for hackers and malicious software.
To turn off public sharing, follow these steps:
1. Go to your Windows Control Panel.
2. Access the Network and Sharing Center window.
3. Click Change Advanced Sharing Settings.
4. Select the Public profile.
5. Turn off File Sharing, Network Discovery, and Public Folder Sharing, in case they aren’t already OFF. Usually, by simply choosing that you are connecting on a Public network, these options are automatically turned off.
2. Keep the Firewall Enabled
Make sure your Windows firewall is turned on. If you are using a security product that provides a better firewall, make sure it is still enabled. Sometimes, when we are trying to access an online location and notice a slow-down, we disable it temporarily and forget to enable it back. To check, access the Control Panelwindow, go to Systemand Security and select Windows Firewall.
(The steps may differ on different Windows operating systems.)
3. Use secure websites for sensitive operations
First of all, we don’t recommend running any important operation or financial transaction on a public wireless network. This being said, if you still need to use a public network to check your bank balance, make sure youvisit a secure website.
To know you’re using a secure site, look to the left of the web address and find the “Lock” icon. This indicates you are on an encrypted or verified location.
At the same time, check the web address starts with “https://“. The “S” is from “secure socket layer” and you know you are going to a site where communication is encrypted.
If you don’t want checking all the time the web address, use HTTPS Everywhere, which is available for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. This little extension has the role to encrypt your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure and safe from online criminals.
Even if you don’t use this extension, many sites like Facebook or Gmail use https automatically. In the end, we’ll say again that sensitive browsing, where important credentials or financial data are used, should not be run on public networks.
4. Use a Virtual Private Network
Public networks are favorite places for cyber-criminals to retrieve sensitive data by using wireless sniffers in order to obtain communication details sent over the unsafe network.
To increase your connection security you can use a “private browsing” session, which means that your browsing history will not be kept locally. But this doesn’t mean that the Internet Service Provider or the network administrator will be blocked from “listening” to your online session.
For a greater degree of security, you can start using a VPN, that is a Virtual Private Network.
The VPN hides your IP address by encrypting your connection and allowing you to browse online in anonymity. Using this method you protect your online privacy and you keep your valuable information from cyber threats, online scams, identity breaches or phishing attempts.
To keep your online session private on public wireless networks, we recommend a popular VPN solution like CyberGhost.
5. Turn the Wi-Fi connection OFF
Are you done using the Wi-Fi network? Then don’t forget to turn it off.
There is no reason to stay connected more than you need. The more you stay connected, the more chances are for your system to be noticed by cyber-criminals or malicious software. At the same time, this helps your laptop save the battery life.
6. Update and patch everything
Keep your Windows operating system up-to-date
Always keep your system up-to-date with the latest security updates and patches available.
To take the security updates automatically, follow these steps:
1. Go to your Windows Control Panel window.
2. Select Windows Update and click Change settings.
3. Make sure Install updates automatically is selected.
It is important to have the latest security updates for your Windows operating system, because they contain stability fixes and patches that keep your system safe from cyber-criminal attempts that try to benefit from any security hole.
Update your software with the latest patches
We know that online criminals try to benefit from security holes in popular software we use on our computers, like Java, Adobe Flash or popular web browsers like Chrome, Mozilla or Internet Explorer.
For this reason, we recommend you to have the latest updates or security patches for the software you are using. Or if you don’t want to bother checking and keeping the vulnerable applications up-to-date every day, we recommend using a free dedicated solution to do the job.
7. Don’t connect to a public network without a reliable antivirus
It is important to have a good antivirus product from a big security company, which should include real-time scanning, firewall and automatic update capabilities.
8. Don’t browse without a good anti-spyware solution
First, what do we mean by spyware?
Without going into too much information, here are some events that take place when a system is affected by spyware:
pop-up windows are everywhere
error messages appear without notice and they don’t seem to go easily
web browser search engine has been replaced with something fishy
web browser home page is not the one you set
unknown toolbars appear in your browser
slow down affects every step you take
How do I protect from spyware?
Spyware can affect us on any type of network, but on an open public network the online dangers could affect our computers even more. To keep your system protected from spyware, we need to point out the importance of using anti-spyware solutions from well established companies in the online sphere, likeSpybot Search and Destroy, Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware, Malwarebytes and others.
And finally, we need to repeat ourselves, you may install 10 security solutions to keep you safe online, unless you adopt some good security practices you won’t be safe online:
stay away from clicking fishing links or random pop-up windows
don’t reply to strange questions in your web browser or your e-mail inbox
don’t just go online downloading any application you see
For more information on spyware, access this location.
9. Don’t run financial transactions without special protection
We said at the beginning and we repeat it now:
We strongly advise against running financial transactions or inserting sensitive or valuable information when using a public unsafe network!
Nevertheless, if you really need to access your bank account or pay online, we recommend a special security solution that can stop malicious software from retrieving sensitive data and block cyber-criminal actions before they affect your system.
This software represents a complementary layer of security for the traditional antivirus solutions and it’s designed to complete your online safety.
10. Secure your browser before you go online
We go online by using our web browsers and for this reason, we need to secure these tools correctly before we access any website.
And let’s not forget that browsers are applications which, without the proper security updates, may become access doors for online criminals that attempt to steal data by using unpatched security holes.
Therefore, to increase the online security, especially when using a public wireless network, follow these guidelines:
Make sure you have the latest browser version and you have installed the latest security patches.
Access and modify your browser’s security settings. Since this is a long topic, we recommend one of our most popular articles.
Use the private browsing session before you access a website. This option will not keep your browsing history recorded locally. After selecting the private browsing session, go to your search engine and look for free proxy or something similar, access the proxy and insert the website address you want to reach. There are many free proxy sites online, so it’s quite easy to find one.
For an increased protection, download online a popular and reliable VPNsoftware, like CyberGhost, and make sure data you send and receive it’s encrypted and cannot be accessed by prying eyes.
11. Use two-factor authentication everywhere
This option is actually an extra security step that can protect your popular online account. It may be your Facebook, Twitter or Gmail account. Or it may be any other online account that provides the two-factor authentication.
This extra security step increases your online protection by making sure that besides your credentials, which may be retrieved by hackers, you are required to enter an additional one-time code, which is sent to your mobile phone.
We recommend using this method to protect private information from social media accounts or the sensitive data you keep on your e-mail account.
We know that wireless networks are preferred by most people, because it is so easy and convenient using and connecting to them.
In a world where we connect to our Skype account from multiple devices and forget to log out, the mobile devices and our global connectivity are closely connected to the public wireless networks we find down the road. And this freedom to easily connect from every little place in the world gives us a new perspective on the present times, makes distances shorter and improves our communication.
Our work is so much easier now.
I have already said in some other articles, but I need to say it again: Public free wireless networks symbolize the power of Internet, its freedom to spread knowledge and information everywhere and at almost no cost.
And this online freedom, this shifting nature of Internet, finds correspondence in our own physical ability to travel and work from any place in the world. Will this online freedom continue to be present in the distant future or is it just a thing of the present?
My name is Kuruvilla George,FSA from St Joseph college of engineering and technology
I can never forget the date on which I applied to become a member of FSA program. Yes , It was 14th October, 2015. Before it , I did not know about this program. When I read about the FSA program , Mozilla Manifesto and story , I got excited to join this program and contribute to it. So , My journey towards Mozilla started with this day. I got excited when I recieved the confirmation mail from Mozilla.
Now , You can also call me an Mozillan and Firefox Student Ambassador too. Unfortunately , I had some tough and unfavorable time in my life during those days , due to which I couldn’t contributed to FSA program. But everyone knows tough time does not last long. So , I again thought to do something for Mozilla. That day was an awesome for me. When I came to know that a Firefox Club exists in my college , so I made efforts to join the club and I was so excited about that. In parallel to this , I read the Mozilla wiki and understood the FSA program.
Being a FSA , It helped me to develop social relationships and leadership skills , got an insight about open web and open source , came in touch with other awesome Mozillians like me and got a social identity.
In whole , my experience as a FSA is just awesome and I love Mozilla. I also wish that other open web enthusiasts like me should also join the FSA program and get a golden opportunity to uplift themselves in every context of life.
There are many such moments in this journey which I cherished and enjoyed the most which I will express in my next post.
Kuruvilla George Aiyankovil
Firefox Student Ambassador