How To Stay Safe On Public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi sign outside of restaurant. Learn how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi.

Written by: Jay H.

Staying connected nowadays is easier than ever. Businesses, hotels, restaurants, and even entire cities offer public Wi-Fi hotspots for guests to get online. However, connecting to these hotspots comes with risks. Ideally, you’d never connect to public networks and instead use your mobile device as a hotspot, but sometimes this may be impractical. Let’s discuss why public Wi-Fi is risky and how to stay safe when you have to use it.

Why Is Public Wi-Fi Risky?

Unlike your home network, anyone can set up and access public Wi-Fi. This means that hackers can gain access to unsecured devices on the same network. Typical attacks involve threat actors intercepting your connection, meaning that instead of talking to the hotspot, you’ll be relaying your information to the hacker. You can imagine how devastating that can be if you enter sensitive information, such as credentials or credit card information.

Another risk presented by public Wi-Fi is that hackers can distribute malware through the connection. For instance, if you allow file-sharing on your devices, attackers can easily plant malware on your computer.

Given that public Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming increasingly common, attackers will continue to target unsuspecting users. However, there are some steps you can take to be safe while on public Wi-Fi.

Check For HTTPS

There is a substantial difference between HTTPS and HTTP. Websites you browse in general—and especially on public Wi-Fi—should utilize HTTPS. HTTPS encrypts the data sent between your computer and the website. On the contrary, should you enter your credentials on an unsecured (HTTP) website, attackers could steal your information. And if you’re one of more than three-quarters of people who reuse their passwords, just one breach could give hackers access to your financial or corporate data.

Disable File Sharing

As previously mentioned, if you have file sharing enabled while on public Wi-Fi, hackers could install malicious software on your devices. To prevent this, disable file sharing on your devices.

On PC, go to Control Panel, then Network and Sharing Center, and then Change advanced sharing settings. Finally, checking Turn off file and printer sharing will stop your devices from sending and accepting file shares.

For iOS, go to System Preferences, then Sharing. Deselect the File Sharing tick box, and then your iOS devices will be safe from malicious file implants.

Use Well-Known Networks

“Starbucks-Guest” is less risky than “Joe’s Hotspot.” Whenever possible, connect to trusted providers offering free Wi-Fi. These hotspots are more likely to treat your information better than random networks popping up in the shopping mall. However, keep in mind that no public Wi-Fi is entirely safe, as attackers could join the same network as you and target your devices.


A virtual private network (VPN) is by far the most effective way to stay safe while browsing on a public connection. Moreover, if you’re connecting to your business while on an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, a VPN is a must. VPNs encrypt data transmitted between your device and the hotspot, making it harder for hackers to decipher the information. We strongly recommend that you pay for a VPN, as free solutions collect and sell your data.

Stay Safe On Public Wi-FI

Browsing on public Wi-Fi presents numerous risks. As said, the best way to stay safe is to avoid using public Wi-Fi and instead use your mobile device as a hotspot. However, if you need to connect, using these tips above will minimize your risks of being successfully intercepted by a hacker.

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