As a WiFi calling first company, we get asked this question a lot – “Is my phone secure on public WiFi?” It’s a complex question – one we are continuously monitoring as security technology rapidly evolves. The bottom line is all WiFi works on unlicensed radio spectrum, so whether you are using your phone, a computer, a tablet, or console, taking some simple precautions when connecting through a public WiFi network can help keep your information safe!
1. Keep your browser and Internet-connected devices up to date with the latest versions, but make sure to do this on a trusted home, work, or business network.
2. Be aware of rogue hot spots – you’ll know ’em when you see ’em. They sometimes appear as long, random number or letter strings. Verify the name of the network with staff or on signage before connecting when you’re out and about. Public hot spots at places like Starbucks usually require that you agree to terms or login through a browser page first. Luckily, with Republic phones, when you login once, your phone can remember your actions so you never have to do it again!
3. Be careful what sorts of websites you access on public networks. If a website connection is secured, its address will begin with https:// instead of just http://, and you should see a padlock or other indicator showing SSL encryption is in use somewhere on the browser screen (usually in the lower right hand corner). This is especially important if you’re making a purchase on an online store or doing and online banking (more on that in number 5!).
4. If you’re on a mobile device, don’t assume that your apps are automatically secure or using HTTPS. Unless outlined by the app developer, it’s safest to presume that the app is not conducting a secure transaction. In this case, you should use your browser to log on to the service, and check for a HTTPS connection in the status bar.
5. Only do online banking and shopping using secure network – ideally your password protected home network, which is likely utilizing WEP, WPA, or WPA2 security. If you are out in public and must access sensitive info, we suggest turning your WiFi off temporarily and using the cellular network. Though it’s slower, most cell service providers encrypt the traffic between cell towers and your device.
6. Avoid using communication apps, such as for free phone calls and instant messaging, unless you know the network you’re using is secure.
7. Once you are all done with your Internet browsing, make sure to log off any services you were signed into.
8. It’s good practice to enable two-factor authentication on services that support it, such as Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook. This way, in the off chance someone does manage to sniff out your password when on public WiFi, you have an added layer of protection.
9. Use strong passwords for all your online accounts and change them often. There are many good password protection programs – more here.
10. If you’re really concerned about your mobile Internet security, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) on both your WiFi and cell data connections. When connected to a VPN, all your Internet traffic travels through an encrypted tunnel, guarding it from local eavesdroppers. One we like is the free super-easy VPN provided by Tunnel Bear. Launch the app and look in the notification bar for a small key and that means you are on a secure connection.
A few simple steps are the keys to a smarter smartphone and playing it safe. What tips do you have for WiFi security? Share them with us in the comments!