8 effective ways to ensure security when accessing free, public Wi-Fi

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Access to the Internet is a basic human need, according to the United Nations. With the increasing number of Filipinos who are regularly connecting online, the proposed Senate Bill 1277 or Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, which is yet to be signed as a law, is a welcome note.

Once the proposed legislation is put into place, all government offices as well as public venues like transport terminals, hospitals, schools, and public libraries nationwide will be required to provide free Internet access to everyone.

However, there is an imminent danger to the proliferation of free public Wi-Fi hotspots. “An open, free network is like a double-edged sword; it’s free but also definitely risky,” said Kaspersky Lab Southeast Asia general manager Sylvia Ng.

“It is perfectly fine to feel excited about the anticipated public Wi-Fis in the entire Philippines. But we urge Filipinos to be very cautious, too. We would encourage them to first arm themselves with cyber savvy habits and knowledge to stay safe in a free network,” Ng added.

So before you look for available free or public Wi-Fi connection as you go around places, be sure to observe these effective tips that will surely keep you, your devices, and your personal data protected at all means.
1. Avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks without any password.
Cybercriminals can set up fake free Wi-Fi networks, which easily deceive those who are always looking for free and instant Internet connection. Once an unsuspecting victim logs in through any of these fake networks, their login credentials and other personal information are obtained. Since it could be difficult to identify fake free networks, it is always advisable to connect to the net from home or via mobile data.

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2. Be careful as well when connecting with public Wi-Fi with passwords.
It is relatively easy for some cybercriminals to find out passwords in public Wi-Fi in cafés or shopping malls. They could easily create fake Wi-Fi hotspots with the same name. Be very discerning and careful when connecting with public Wi-Fi, whether with passwords or without.

3. Turn off your device’s Wi-Fi when not in use.
Turn off the automatic connection of your device to any available Wi-Fi network. Take note that when your smartphone, tablet, or laptop searches for available networks around, it transmits a unique MAC address that is logged into Wi-Fi networks, including the fake ones. Turning off instant Wi-Fi connection may not just protect you from various tracking methods of unscrupulous parties; doing so can also help protect your personal data and save battery life of your device at the same time.

4. Refrain from doing important online transactions when connected to a public Wi-Fi network.
Use your mobile connection instead if you need to open your bank account online or if you need to complete important online transactions like making payments and fund transfers.

5. Browse through websites that support HTTPS.
Many online sites now support ‘https,’ which encrypts data you send and receive from such sites. It is recommended that you activate the setting and make sure you log in to sites with the ‘https’ address prefix before accessing important online services.

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6. Install special browser plugins for safer Internet access.
When traveling and you need to go online on your laptop or device through hotspots in cafés, hotels, or other public places, be sure to install a special browser plugin that enables safe Internet access. This particularly applies to users of popular browsers like Google Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. An example of such a plugin is HTTPS Everywhere from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that provides more secured connection with Ebay, Yahoo, and Amazon, among others.

7. Use a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN service encrypts all data you process, making it a good way to protect your personal data when going online. However, a VPN connection is usually paid, but you still can find free plans available online like ProXPN, Your Freedom, Cyber Ghost, and HotShot Shield. Aside from online protection, a VPN service can also provide you access to many censored sites in the country (or in any other country if you are traveling).

8. Install a reliable online security solution.
Of course, it is always best to invest in a reliable and trustworthy online security solution like Kaspersky Internet Security. The program will always alert you whenever you connect with an unreliable Internet/ Wi-Fi network. Furthermore, it secures all your passwords against leakage to cybercriminals.

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