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Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network can be a real cash saver, enabling you to access high-speed Internet services without using up your mobile data allowance. But it’s also important to be aware of the information security risks involved in using a public network, without taking precautions to keep your private info safe.
Here are some tips from Alcatel spokesperson, Ernst Wittmann, Regional Manager – Southern and East Africa at TCL, about how you can make secure use of public Wi-Fi from an Android smartphone:
If possible, avoid working with sensitive info at a public hotspot
Connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot is a good opportunity to make a video call, catch up with some YouTube videos, or read the news headlines. But ideally, you should avoid doing your online banking or exchanging particularly confidential emails when you’re using your local coffee shop’s hotspot. Rather use your own mobile data or your home network for those transactions. Though the chances are low that someone is snooping, it only takes one breach for you to be exposed to identity theft or the theft of your passwords.
Turn off Wi-Fi when you’re not using it
While you’re out and about, turn off your Wi-Fi connection if you’re not using it. In addition to sparing your battery life, deactivating a connection when you do not need it is a good way to shut off potential security vulnerabilities.
Consider using anti-malware software
Google’s own Google Play Protect does a good job of scanning your Android device and keeping it clear of malware. But if you often use public networks, you get some extra peace of mind by using a third-party antivirus app that identifies known threats and prevents them from compromising your device or data.
Use a VPN
If you’re often on the road and can’t avoid using public networks for sensitive data and applications, a VPN can give you an extra layer of security. A VPN (virtual private network) is a secure solution that allows you to send and receive data across a public network with the level of privacy you’d get on a private network. Examples of VPN providers include Vypr, ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. You will usually need to a pay a few US dollars a month to use a VPN service—many of which now offer easy-to-use Android apps.
Follow common sense security precautions
The more layers of security you apply as you use your Android smartphone, the less risk a breach via a public hotspot will pose for you. So, follow all the usual precautions:
- Ensure you’re on the latest version of the Android operating system, since each new version enhances security and addresses security vulnerabilities.
- Download apps only from an official source, such as the Google Play Store, to avoid malware-ridden, pirated software.
- Use two-factor authentication for logging on to important sites and services, such as banking and social media. This means that you'll need to provide a password, plus, for example a PIN code sent to you via SMS, before you can log on.
- Use strong passwords to secure your information.
- Don’t use the same password across multiple apps, sites and services.