Public WiFi Security: Best Practices for Data Protection

Recently, my team had a meeting at local coffee shop, which provides free public WiFi for patrons to use. I thought to myself, how many are accessing the free public Wi-Fi Network knowing there are potential risks involved using a mobile device or laptop? As for myself, I have installed a remote access Virtual Private Network (VPN) software, and confident that I’m working securely on my Mac and iPhone.

Symantec recently released the “Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report” surveying 15,532 mobile device users connecting to public Wi-Fi to analyze both their behaviors and attitudes when using public Wi-Fi.

Here are some of the findings:

  • More than 55 percent of respondents would not hesitate to use free Wi-Fi as long as signal was strong.
  • 46 percent of mobile users can’t wait to get password to access Wi-Fi be it, at friend’s house, hotel, café, airport, etc.
  • 60 percent of mobile users feel their personal information is safe when using public Wi-Fi, however, 53 percent don’ know the difference between using a secure or unsecured public Wi-Fi network.
  • 75 percent of mobile users don’t use a VPN to protect their WiFi connections.
  • 87 percent of mobile users put their information (personal and business) at risk while using public Wi-Fi.

After reading these survey findings, its clear that there are some cybersecurity precautions that need to take place to ensure your data is protected. Here are a few best practices to follow to ensure that you are keeping you personal and business data safe from bad actors.

Use a remote Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN is a service that allows you to connect to the Internet via a server run by a VPN provider. The data traveling between your computer, phone, tablet, laptop and VPN server is securely encrypted.

Avoid connecting automatically to WiFi Hotspots

Be sure your device, tablet, laptop does not connect automatically to Wi-Fi hotspots because this can endanger your privacy. There are malicious networks set up by bad actors to steal your information. Some smartphones have options to disable by default. Tip, turn-off your WiFi when you leave your office or home.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor authentication is a two-step verification process which creates an extra layer of security known as “multi-factor authentication.” In this scenario not only do you need username and password, but you need one piece of information and that only you know. (This piece of information can be sent through a physical token, mobile device, etc.)

Validate the Network Name

Some hackers will set up a rogue WiFi network to public Wi-Fi users. An example of this scenario is people connected to WiFi at Starbucks. The Starbucks public Wi-Fi might be displaying “Starbucks_Guest” and connecting to this fake network puts your device, tablet, laptop at risk. Perhaps as a general rule of thumb, be sure you check with the business on the name of their official network. Often, businesses will display the name of their guest network and password.

Run Anti-Virus Software

In addition to using a VPN, as mentioned earlier, be sure you’re running up-to-date anti-virus software for an extra layer of protection. Most of us know from experience that running anti-virus may not catch all unauthorized activity, but we want to lock as many doors as possible when on the Internet.

Hope these best practices on using public Wi-Fi help all of us work securely.

To learn more on how we can help you work more securely, please reach out to us at

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