In a world where we want to be constantly connected to the internet, we have a few options. Either use 3G or 4G data networks or connect to WiFi. But which is safer? The truth is that there are security risks no matter how you connect to the internet, but some connection options are riskier than others.
Connecting your device to the internet using a data network is safer than you may think. Data sent over 4G is encrypted, making it harder for hackers to steal. If you’re surfing the internet in public and you have a data allowance, it’s the safer option.
You may also be able to connect to a private WiFi network that is password protected. Many small businesses, workplaces, and schools share their WiFi password with those who need it. Because the network both encrypts the data and requires a password to access it, connecting to private WiFi is the safest way to use the internet when you’re out and about.
Public WiFi networks, on the other hand, should be used with caution. They come with a lot of unknown variables, including who is using them and for what. Public WiFi doesn’t require a password to connect, making it incredibly easy to hack. When you’re using public WiFi at an airport, mall, or cafe, never do activities that involve your sensitive data (e.g. online shopping or banking).
One of the craftiest ways that cybercriminals steal personal data is actually by creating fake WiFi hotspots. According to tech innovator Thierry LeVasseur, hackers “create fake WiFi hotspots using network names that look completely legitimate in order to access your devices. So while people assume they are connecting directly to a network, in actuality they are being tricked into accessing a network that is controlled by a hacker.”
When deciding whether to connect to a public WiFi network, ask someone in charge wherever you are about their WiFi. Only connect to the network that matches their description (name and login procedures) and steer clear of others. A free internet connection isn’t worth the struggle of identity theft!
If you must use public WiFi, connect using a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your information safer. A VPN lets you use the internet anonymously by encrypting all of your activity with high-level security. Summer Hirst of The VPN Guru explains that a VPN “creates a secure tunnel for your data to pass through, with its source being almost impossible to trace. . . . Since a VPN encrypts the data that leaves your computer, it becomes difficult for hackers to break it. In fact, there are many VPNs that provide 256-bit encryption that is difficult even for government agencies to break.” You can even get a VPN for an extra layer of protection when using data.
Going out in public doesn’t mean you have to disconnect from the internet. You should, however, make smart choices so you can keep your personal information safe. Connecting to data networks or trusted private WiFi is best, but using a VPN can protect your data when you have to use public WiFi.