Using free public WiFi at a coffee shop or airport hot spot is great for convenience, but bad for security – which is why you should consider using a VPN.
Most free access points do not make use of encryption. This is done for convenience and ease of access. If every person had to ask the barista or gate attendant for the WiFi key, it would get unruly, and no actual work would get done.
Keep in mind that you are sharing those wireless airwaves with anyone that is within range of your wireless communications.
There is technology out there that allows you to view the wireless computer communications that are within range of your device.
To the bad guys, this technology lets them see what you are doing, the data you are passing to websites, and your usernames and passwords. UNLESS…
- You are on websites with ‘https’ … the little S is for secure. It’s like speaking a language that only two people can understand (your computer, and the website).
- You are using VPN software to encrypt all your wireless communications
- You are using a wireless device from your cellular phone provider, 3G or 4G network access… This is not WiFi, and is not subject to WiFi Security Policies.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is good practice to use a VPN when in a public networking spot such as wifi hot spots. This will create a virtual tunnel for your computer to communicate securely through the public network.
Why use a VPN?
Using a VPN client to encrypt and route your wireless communications allows you to create a secure channel for your computer to communicate.
Even if you are accessing a website without HTTPS, your communication to that website is secured through your VPN connection. If there are any bad guys around you listening in on your wifi traffic, it will be safe.
Before traveling for work, consult with your IT department about their data security policies when on the road, how to setup your VPN connection (if your company has VPN access), or how to obtain a 3G/4G cellular network card