Offering free Wi-Fi is now a common ploy used by public establishments—from high-end coffee shops to that bar your barkada frequents—to lure in more customers. And we fall for the bait whole-heartedly because, well, free Internet!
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It's all good, but before you ask "Miss, ano po ang Wi-Fi password ninyo?" know this: Free Internet is nice, but surfing on public Wi-Fi networks could be dangerous for your digital life. You see, since its public, anyone can access it, from that pretty college chick to that well-dressed bloke who's actually a hacker in disguise.
We're not going to tell you to lay off free Internet especially since we're now approaching the wallet-busting holiday season. Instead, in this edition of FHM TechKnow, we give you tips for a safer browsing session when using public Wi-Fi networks.
Better to be safe than sorry/be deluged with virus/the star of the next sex scandal, bros!
ALWAYS ENABLE FIREWALL
A firewall is basically your PC or laptop's way of monitoring and controlling network traffic that goes into and from your computer. It blocks potentially harmful and unauthorized systems from communicating with your rig. Think of it as the bruising bouncer that blocks drunk hooligans (unauthorized access) who want to make trouble inside a club (your computer).
As such, a firewall is one of your PC's most basic and important security measures. Since a public Wi-Fi network can be used by just about anyone, hackers can exploit it to connect to the computers that use it. To help ensure that your computer won't be victimized, always double-check if it's activated—click here to know how.
VERIFY THE WI-FI NETWORK NAME
Shady geeks can pull off a fast one on gullible Free Wi-Fi users by coming up with a Wi-Fi network name that seems legit. It could be something that's related to the name of the establishment you're in (e.g. This Resto's Free Wi-Fi), or something that sounds so geeky it should be true (e.g. W1-F1 L33T Netw0rk FR33). On the flipside, stay clear of network names that seem really suspicious (e.g. Hack3rzzz69 Lolzzz). D-U-H-!
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In any case, be sure to ask the establishment the name of their official Wi-Fi network. Fake networks can be used by hackers to connect to computers that are fooled into connecting, thus resulting in stuff like file theft and malware distribution.
HAVE A SOLID ANTIVIRUS PROGRAM
Activating the firewall is important, but it's not a 100-percent fool-proof way of avoiding virtual baddies. This is where a solid antivirus program comes in. Many of the latest versions come with a network traffic monitoring feature that helps protect your computer even if the default firewall is turned off.
As an added bonus, AV softwares alert you in real-time if your rig has been compromised either by malware or unauthorized access. This instant notification feature tells you if you have to disconnect ASAP from a network that's probably bad news for your computer.
DISABLE YOUR DEVICE'S AUTO-CONNECT FEATURE
Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have an auto-connect feature that instantly connects the device to a recognized Wi-Fi network (a network you've connected to before) without your permission. While this saves time and effort, it leaves your device open to unauthorized access as well. Again, hardcore hackers can set up fake networks that mimic legit networks, thereby attracting connections they can hack into.
If you don't want to fall prey to this digital trickery, disable the auto-connect feature. It's actually really easy: Just go to your device's Wi-Fi settings and from there you'll be given the option to turn it off.
TURN OFF SHARING
A Wi-Fi network gives users the ability to access the files stored inside any of the connected computers. This is a big plus in terms of speed and convenience if we're talking about a private home or office network. However, if it's a public network that anyone can connect to then...you get the idea.
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So, unless you're absolutely sure you can trust all the users in your network, turn off your computer's sharing feature before connecting to a public network. This effectively puts a big "Hands OFF" sign on your computer and makes it hard for others to access your files without your permission.
Here's how to disable this feature:
- Windows: Start>Control Panel>Network and Internet
- Mac: System Preferences>Sharing
KEEP YOUR FILES IN A SECURE, NON-WIRELESS LOCATION
If you really want to keep your files safe while using a public network, then keep 'em all inside one secure location that can't be accessed wirelessly. It could be a separate USB flash drive or an external hard drive with no Wi-Fi feature or even a DVD.
GIF via Theboredninja.com
In other words, remove the files you want to protect from your PC or laptop, so if ever someone was able to hack into it, your precious files won't be seen or stolen because it's not inside your computer. Just don't lose whatever storage device you used, okay?
Once you've disconnected from the public network, transfer the files back to your computer. This might be an extreme tip but, with events like The Fappening happening left and right, you can never be too sure.