Public Wifi Best Practices

by Sep 15, 2016Guest Post, Productivity

Are you afraid of getting hacked when logging on to public WiFi?
Are you guilty of going to sensitive websites at hotels and coffee shops?
Read these best practices to stay safe when on a public WiFi network.

This is a guest post by David L. Matthews, MSL, IPCC, NLPP

  1. Verify the name of the network. Ask an employee or staff of the hotel, coffee shop, library, etc. the name of the network. Evil doers can set up what looks to be a free public Wifi that is similar to the authentic network . When you connect to the web, all your data streams through their computer. Known as a “Man-in-the-Middle” attack, the evil doer can pull out valuable information or possibly begin to install a backdoor while you surf.
  2. Use the Public network profile. In Windows 7 and up, you have the option to select which profile to use with a new network connection. Select Public with all networks you are not familiar with. The Public profile offers more security and reduces your risk of getting hacked.
  3. Turn off File Sharing. Depending on what version of Windows or Mac you are using, public file sharing can be turned on by default. This makes it easier to steal your data if someone does get into your computer. Turn them off by following the instructions below:
    • Windows: (assuming you are using the Public network profile) START > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center. On the left sidebar, click Change Advance Sharing Settings. Under the Public profile, make sure all the sharing options are turned off, except “Use 128-encryption” and “password protected sharing”. These two should be turned on.
    • Mac OS X: In the Dock, select System Preferences > Sharing. Uncheck File Sharing.
  4. Don’t access high-security accounts via Public WiFi networks. While your data is being streamed in encrypted form, it is still not a good practice to conduct your banking or other sensitive business. The biggest risk here is your screen and keystrokes can be monitored by evil doers. Once they get your bank or credit card account number, they don’t need your computer anymore.
  5. Don’t automatically connect. For your convenience, Windows and Mac will automatically remember the new network and try to connect when you are close to it. You can turn this off. This limits the window of opportunity for someone who wants to hack your system. You can turn off the automatically connect option by following the instructions below:
    • Windows: Start > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center. Select the wireless network name. Select Wireless Properties and uncheck Connect automatically when this network is in range.
    • Mac OS X: In the Dock, select System Preferences > Network. Select Wi-Fi on the left and click the Advanced button in the lower right. Uncheck Remember networks this computer has joined.
  6. Keep your anti-virus up-to-date. While not a direct hacking attack, virus and malware can create a backdoor into your system, which can be easily accessed on a public wireless network. Use a good anti-virus software, keep it up-to-date, and run a virus scan at least once-a-week.
  7. Keep Windows/Mac up-to-date. Microsoft and Apple do a good job of fixing security holes that are discovered in their software. By applying the latest security updates, you are patching security problems that could be exploited on a public network.
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jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects