An “open” Wi-Fi network is one that does not require a password to gain access. These types of networks are frequently offered by airports, coffee shops, and hotels and may not be safe. Similarly, a “closed” Wi-Fi network (one that requires a password) may not be safe, especially if the required password is widely available. While convenient, Wi-Fi networks open up the people connecting to them to prying eyes.
What’s the big deal if you’re connected to a “wide open” Wi-Fi network? Bad guys on that same network can learn about your device (i.e., computer or smart phone), such as the software or apps running. If your software or apps contain vulnerabilities, the bad guys can potentially use them to exploit your device.
Recommendations when working from an unsecure Wi-Fi network or one that uses a widely available password:
- If you are conducting financial transactions (e.g., transferring money in a bank account), make sure you use either the financial company’s secure app, or conduct your transactions through an HTTPS website.
- If using a Windows-based PC, select the “public” option upon connecting to the network.
- If available, use a corporate or personal VPN that encrypts all traffic from your computer to the internet.
- For a more secure connection, use your phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot feature (if available). Be aware that this use will rapidly consume your monthly data allowance if you don’t have an unlimited plan.