wi fi safety public

Use a VPN to Staying safe on Public Wi-Fi (Um, What’s a VPN?)

public wi fiProtect yourself on public wifi with a VPN: If you’ve never heard of, or indeed used, a VPN (virtual private network) before now, never fear. The truth of the matter is that a whole bunch of people just don’t know what these things are. When you ask them about a VPN, they stare at you with a look of sheer bewilderment.

That’s fair enough; the point is, though, that you don’t have to be super techy to know what one of these things is. In fact, it could really help you to educate yourself so that you can protect your private information from online thieves. Yikes. Here’s what you need to know.

Why is public WiFi dangerous? (would you like identity theft w/ that latte?) 

vpn public wifi coffee shop

Whether you’re in a coffee shop, bar or a shared working situation, you might login to a public WiFi hotspot. Most of us use this type of free internet all the time without ever thinking about it. But wait, maybe we should. You see, open WiFi hotspots can actually be extremely dangerous especially when it comes to our personal data. While you’re surfing away, checking your emails, or chatting to pals online, someone could be watching you.

Even amateur hackers can get their hands on freeware that helps them to spy on people. At the touch of a button, they can take a look at your communications and, yes, steal your personal information. You probably hear about hacking scandals all the time in the media, but never think that it could happen to you.

When you’re on a public network, though, you’re under serious threat. It’s crucial that you do something to protect yourself. Also, consider a backup solution like Carbonite (get a coupon) in case things really go awry and you lose or are locked out of your files. Yikes!

What is a VPN and why do you need one?

Helpful 4 minute video explains what a VPN is

VPNs have been around for quite some time, yet few people know how to use them. So, first of all, let’s address what they actually are. VPN stands for “virtual private network”. When you start using one, you can hide your location and information from those around you, even if they happen to be using the same network as you are. The VPN masks your Internet protocol (IP) so that from that moment on, no one can trace where you are. Simple. Right?

So, why do you need a VPN? Well, in short, when you’re doing things online like shopping or communicating, you want things to be as secure as possible. When people can trace you, it means that they may also have access to your information. Using the VPN means that that is no longer possible. In simple terms, if they can’t find you on the public network or WiFi hotspot, there’s just no way that they can access your information.

The moment you begin masking your location and identity, you can be sure that you are safe. Most people have no idea where to start with this kind of thing, but the truth of the matter is that it’s really extremely easy. All you need to do is make sure that you prepare yourself ahead of time. That way, you will never have an issue in the future.

But wait, what does a VPN actually do?

If you’re still a little perplexed, never fear. We will go into what a VPN actually does right here and break everything down for you as easily as possible. Once you start using a VPN, it will make a data tunnel between your local network and an exit node somewhere else. (The location of the node really doesn’t matter all that much; what matters is that it’s nowhere near where you are! It could be another state or, indeed, another country altogether.)

vpn public wifi security

When users or hackers try to view your network and where you are, no information will be available to them. So, if you happen to be in a coffee shop, using the public network, and a hacker decides to attack the people on that network with some nasty creepware, you will not be affected. Your network just will not be visible to the hacker, and so you will be 100% safe. Hurrah.

Are there any negatives to using a VPN?

There are a small number of websites or apps that might not work properly if you are on a VPN, so it’s good to have a backup browser.

Also, due to the encryption process, it might slow down your internet connection slightly., However, during peak hours visitors to popular sites like youtube report that their VPN connection is actually faster than the regular wi-fi connection. Go figure?! 

How to choose a VPN quickly and easily

So, since there are loads of VPNs on the market, which should you choose? Well, one of the best is the Norton WiFi Privacy (get coupon), which you may have heard great reviews of before now. Of course, there are many options available to you.

Before you opt for a VPN, ask these crucial questions:

  1. Is your privacy protected? The entire point of you using a VPN is to protect yourself, and so you want to be sure that the service is not logging your activity too. Look into the privacy settings and make sure that there is a ‘no log’ service promise there.
  2. Is there a data limit? You don’t want to have any limits when it comes to browsing the net. Sadly, some VPN services set data limits. It’s worth checking out their terms ahead of time to see that you have just what you need.
  3. Can you use different devices? It’s not just about laptops these days. From tablets to smartphones, we all have a bunch of things that we can use online. Ensure that you can use the VPN across all your devices so that you’re always safe when browsing!

Once you have asked and, indeed, answered these questions, it’s time to get started. Remember, using a VPN is the smartest thing you can do and it just makes sense. Happy surfing!