The Truth About Public WiFi
Full Disclosure: I’m writing this article on public wifi. If you fear infection please stop right now, close this article right away and run.
There is a fair amount of information swirling around the internet these days about open wifi, public wifi, and secure VPN. Although surfing, banking, or writing LinkedIn articles over public wifi is not ideal, there is the right way of being able to securely use your phone, laptop, tablet, or any piece of technology with a secure channel to your resources.
What’s the big deal anyway?
Public WiFi is not a new concept, it’s been available in Library’s, Airports, and coffee shops alike for many years. It’s grown in popularity as the majority of us have 2 devices on us at any given moment. For example, right now I currently have 3 wireless enabled devices with me on my business trip – smart phone, tablet, and laptop. Most of us geeks are like that, however, the “general public” at least carries around 2 devices with them.
The big deal is about security and peace of mind while operating your technology over public wifi. Most of you will never even think about the concept of securing your information while you compute over someone’s wireless network, even the repercussions are not even top of mind either. The example most of us security people like to use is the banking scenario. To the ill-informed – creating, or snooping on public wifi is as easy as eavesdropping on someones conversation in a public space. Open or wireless with a secured password – if its shared, you are open for trouble.
What Is VPN Anyway?
VPN = Virtual Private Network
In the past, or if you were ever part of a corporate environment, you may already know what a VPN is – access to your companies resources via secure channel. This security tunnel enables you to access remote servers without anyone along the way gaining visability to your information.
The same concept is true when dealing with VPN over Public Wifi. A “hacker” or “snooper” will be unable to see the packets (information sent over the network) of your banking ID and password, along with any social media account information, pictures, browser, local computer resources..etc. Using a VPN service will help keep your information secure while you enjoy the comfort of public wifi.
Fortunately there are solutions out there that have free limited VPN software packages and some that are paid unlimited packages – ideally, if you are an occasional browser on public resources, free would be the best option On the other side, if you are a heavy user, or if you travel quite frequently – getting a paid unlimited service would be highly recommended.