We’ve all been there: looking for free WiFi on the go and failing to find it. WiFi can be rare in places, but you can still get a good connection pretty much anywhere (presuming you’re not on a deserted island). The trick is knowing how and where to look – but don’t forget that unsecured public networks are a goldmine for hackers!
Use WiFi Apps
When there’s an app for everything, it’s no surprise that you can get one to find free WiFi anywhere. Here are a few recommendations that’ll help.
WiFi Map is one of the most popular apps out there that can help you get free WiFi. The great thing about it is that it contains a map with over 100 million WiFi hotspots along with login credentials. Since the app is crowdsourced, most networks are tried and tested; however, that doesn’t mean they’re secure as you could encounter hotspots listed by bad actors. It’s best to check the community opinions and feedback on the preferred network before establishing a connection.
Instabridge is another crowdsourced app that offers a map with over a million free public WiFi networks. It includes not only login credentials but an auto-connect function; thus, whenever you’re close to a WiFi hotspot listed in the app, your mobile device (be it an Android or iOS device) will connect automatically. Although the function is handy, it does present a security risk since hackers can easily list their malicious hotspot in the app’s list. For maximum security, it’s advised to turn off this feature.
Free Zone is one more app that provides you with a massive log of free WiFi hotspots all around the globe. However, it’s an Android-only app, at least for now. Unlike WiFi Map, Free Zone doesn’t provide the login credentials; instead, it auto-connects your mobile device to a WiFi network listed in the app, which is a convenient feature that, unfortunately, presents a risk of auto-connecting to a malicious network. Thus, it best to think twice before enabling the auto-connect option. Notifications are also incredibly useful for those on the go; whenever you approach a public WiFi network, Free Zone will notify you. However, it’s critical to note that though the app is excellent, it does not ensure secure connectivity.
WiFox is an app that exclusively targets airport regulars. The app provides an extensive catalog of airport and lounge WiFI hotspots worldwide. It also includes all login credentials that you’d need. With a regularly updated database and the ability to use the app offline, WiFox proves to be a tool that no frequent flyer should pass on.
The dangers of public WiFi
Everyone loves free WiFi as it’s by far the best way to remain connected at all times. Whether you’re traveling or working remotely, a public network could come as a blessing in disguise that can help you solve any problems on the go. Plus it’s an excellent substitute for your mobile data. However, it’s essential to reiterate: if something’s free, you’re likely the product. These are the days of big data, and there’re a lot of bad actors trying to join in on the action.Connecting to a public network requires virtually no authentication or authorization. In most cases, you’ll either encounter a captive portal asking you to agree with the Terms of Service or you’ll need to ask someone for a password. That’s not surprising as most public WiFi hotspots have nothing to do with security since they’re set up purely for convenience.Based on that fact alone, you should always think twice before connecting to a public WiFi network. When you’re connected to an unprotected WiFi hotspot, everything you do online can be observed by malicious third parties, government agencies, etc. As a consequence, anyone who’s capable of intercepting an unprotected connection can steal your login credentials, banking details, emails, and other sensitive information.Although using a public network sounds risky, there are ways to protect yourself. Don’t worry if you’re not an IT expert. Getting free WiFi anywhere is easier than it seems.
Securing your public WiFi connectivity
Now that you’re aware of dangers regarding public WiFi and know the best ways to get free connectivity, you need to take a few precautionary steps to ensure secure connectivity. Without further ado:
Turn off public network sharing
Though it’s okay to allow public sharing when you’re connected to your home or work network, public WiFi hotspots are a totally different case. Due to serious security vulnerabilities, free WiFi networks are a fertile ground for malicious actors.In fact, failing to turn off public network sharing could lead to disastrous outcomes. In such a case, a hacker that successfully intercepts your connection will likely have access to most of the information stored on your computer. You can think of it as leaving your front door open at all times as nowadays exposing your data could have consequences as detrimental as having your house robbed.
Enable your firewall
It’s not surprising that some people have their firewall disabled and that’s often due to its annoying pop-ups and notifications. However, enabling it before connecting to a public WiFi network is essential; in fact, it should be standard practice.With a firewall enabled, you will still have access to your email account; however, other interactive applications will require your consent before being used. Additionally, a firewall provides a robust gateway defense, which means trouble for any intruder that tries to access your system. While a firewall might seem a basic security precaution, many people, IT professionals included, forget that it could prove incredibly effective in case of a cyber attack.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network, also known as VPN, is your best bet to ensure that your public WiFi connectivity is secure at all times. When you use a VPN service and connect to a public WiFi network, the connection is fully encrypted, and your IP remains hidden. In other words, a VPN creates a secure tunnel, locking out anyone on the same WiFi network from snooping around.Though most VPNs are subscription-based services, the value for money is excellent. Some VPNs go the distance to provide you with tons of useful extra features such as an inbuilt ad blocker (which in itself could count as an added security layer), browser proxy extensions, and the ability to use the service on multiple devices. Just think about it: a simple tool can ensure that all your online activities remain private and your connection is protected.
What it’s all about
WiFi is ubiquitous in our contemporary society. In fact, cities all around the globe are already implementing free public WiFi services in downtown areas and other important locations. Though being connected at all times and under any circumstances is the future we’re heading towards, a balance must be struck between convenience and security. The best advice that anyone can give you is to stay vigilant and ensure that you’ve taken all appropriate security measures whenever you connect to a free WiFi hotspot. If you follow these recommendations, public WiFi networks won’t pose virtual security threats, at least for you.