How to Secure Your Online Privacy on a Public Wi-Fi

Last updated: November 18th, 2020

Data is one of the most valuable things on the internet, and this is why it is important to stay protected when surfing the web. Apart from the different websites which collect and store data, there are cybercriminals who seek to harvest and use your data through illegal means and for unethical purposes. One of the most common ways through which a lot of people fall victim to data breaches and cybercrime is by using a public network while unprotected.

There are lots of risks associated with using a public Wi-Fi without securing your privacy as they are made for convenience and do not offer much security. When using an unsecured network, your online activity, banking information, and other personal data are open to anyone with a basic knowledge of how to intercept a wireless connection, leaving you vulnerable to various types of attacks. In the next section, we’ll run through how to secure your online privacy on a public Wi-Fi.

How to Secure Your Online Privacy on a Public Wi-Fi

Since a public Wi-Fi is less secure than a home or private Wi-Fi, there is the need to pay extra attention to keeping your device protected and securing your privacy when using one. Here are some ways you can secure your online privacy on a public Wi-Fi.

1.     Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network is one of the best means to secure your privacy on a public network. A VPN will encrypt your internet traffic and hide your real IP address when using the internet. This makes it very difficult or impossible for an intruder to capture your information. There are lots of VPN services available with different levels of security. Most top VPNs use a military-grade encryption protocol which is impossible to break. Some also offer extra features such as ad and malware blocking.

VPNs are available for various devices such as smartphones and laptops and will offer strong protection as long as you use a reliable service provider. There are some VPN apps which will switch on automatically when connecting to an unknown public network while using the best security settings. Using a VPN is one of the most effective ways to protect your device from malware and hackers when using an untrusted network.

2.   Use a Secure Connection

When using a public network, make sure you only connect to websites via HTTPS. Websites encrypted with HTTPS offer a more secure communication than HTTP. You can easily check this by clicking the address bar on your browser. Also, ensure you always type the URL in manually and crosscheck for errors, to avoid getting redirected to dangerous websites infected with malware.

3.   Turn off File Sharing

Always ensure you turn off file sharing when connecting to a public network on a PC. Your device should not be configured to be visible on public networks or share access to files.

4.   Do not Perform Sensitive Transactions

When using public Wi-Fi, do not use certain mobile apps or perform sensitive transactions on the network such as bank transactions or using a credit card.

5.    Two-factor Authentication

Always use two-factor authentication on supported services. This makes it harder for intruders to gain access to your accounts as there will be an extra layer of protection.

Best VPNs for Online Privacy Protection

1.     ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is our top pick when it comes to privacy protection. It has over 3000 servers in 94 countries all over the world. It is available on major operating systems such as Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. For security, the provider uses an AES 256-bit cipher for encryption, which is unbreakable. The VPN service is fully compatible with various browsers and has extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox.

ExpressVPN has other security features such as split tunneling, kill switch, and a no-logs policy. The kill switch feature stops all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops suddenly, while the no-log policy means the service does not store details of the user’s internet activity.

2.   NordVPN

NordVPN is a VPN service with over 5000 servers in 59 countries. Like ExpressVPN, NordVPN uses a 256-bit AES encryption protocol for security. The service offers ad blocking and DDoS protection and it has extra security features like CyberSec and DoubleVPN.  The DoubleVPN feature encrypts the user’s data twice by rerouting it through two VPN servers, while CyberSec protects against malware and potential threats. NordVPN has a kill switch feature and the company maintains a no-logs policy.

3.   SurfShark

SurfShark has over 1700 high speed servers in 63 countries. It uses a 256-bit AES encryption and supports OpenVPN. SurfShark has amazing security features like the Clean Web, DNS leak protection, kill switch, and WebRTC leak protection. SurfShark has a no-log policy and is available on all major operating systems.

How to Set Up a VPN

Our pick for this guide is ExpressVPN. To set up ExpressVPN on your device, follow the steps below.

  1. Visit the ExpressVPN website and create an account. You will need to do this at first in order to get an activation code. After that, purchase a suitable subscription plan.
  2. Once you’ve signed up, login using your sign-in details and click the download button. Select the ExpressVPN app for your operating system to start the download. On some operating systems, the VPN app can be downloaded on the app store
  3. Install the app and login with the details provided during registration and the activation code. Read through the terms and conditions and click ‘Accept’
  4. Choose whether you want the app to launch on startup or not.
  5. The next step is to choose a server location. The smart location by default will choose the best server available for you. You can change this to suit your preferred location.
  6. Once the ‘Connected’ message is displayed, you can begin to surf the internet.

Conclusion

The importance of staying protected while using the internet especially on public networks cannot be overemphasized. One of the best ways to secure your privacy when using a public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN. It will keep your device safe from malware and data breaches. The VPNs we have listed above are tested and reliable, and they offer the best level of protection possible.

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