Help Desk: Using Public Wi-Fi: Is It Safe?

If you’re like me, when you see a “Free Wi-Fi” sign in a window or pop up on your phone, you feel a certain level of joy in your heart that can only be described as overage-exempt jubilation.

How very 2017 of us.

But how safe is it to use free public Wi-Fi?

According to a recent Harris Poll, 66% of U.S adults have used public Wi-Fi and of that, 39% have accessed sensitive information while using it.   This can be risky business when accessing things like: personal email, business or private documents, performing online banking or shopping online with an account linked to your credit card.   Hackers can use Free Wi-Fi to intercept your data.


Wi-Fi signals are just radio waves. If you are on a “free public Wi-Fi”, essentially anyone can “listen in” to what you’re doing online.

Hackers use software or apps to hijack your information.


How to stay safe:


  1. Make sure you are using the correct network. Ask the barista at the coffee shop the name of the network to ensure you are connecting to the right Wi-Fi.


  1. Use encrypted sites. Check for https: if a site doesn’t have https your data could potentially be insecure. Simply look at your browser URL and look for the padlock symbol


  1. VPN (virtual private network) keeps hackers at bay, securing your private information.  It encrypts all the data going in and out of your device.


  1. Keep apps up to date. When apps are updated they are fixing bugs and catching security loopholes. Update your apps at home on a secure connection.


  1. Pay attention to changes in your information: credit score and banking activity. If you start to notice anything fishy, report it immediately.


  1. Mix up passwords. We are all guilty of using the same passwords over and over. Just like computers, are memory can be limited. Here is a great trick to beat the password blues. Think of an obsolete thing you love. Like: coreylovescocoapebbles

Add your favorite number at the beginning or end and then specify to the site your using. Ex: 22coreylovescocoapebblesfacebook its long but it will be hard to crack and easy to remember.


  1. Turn off automatic sharing.


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Reference: survey conducted for PRIVATE WiFi online within the United States by Harris Poll from March 11-13, 2014 among 2,037 adults ages 18+.   This survey is not based on probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated


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