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How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks
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Safety & security

How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi

Presented by ExpressVPN

Presented by ExpressVPN

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You don’t leave your front door unlocked. So why would you use public Wi-Fi networks without protection? Defend your private data from cybercriminals in public places with these five tips.

Stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks by avoiding significant risks

If you listen to The Kim Komando Show and Kim’s podcasts, you know about digital dangers. Accessing the internet via public Wi-Fi networks can heighten these risks even more.

Cybercriminals use public Wi-Fi to spy on unsuspecting users like you. They’ll create fake networks called “honeypots” to steal your info. Despite these risks, many people still use public Wi-Fi to bank and shop.

Sound familiar? Doing this makes it easy for bad guys to steal your identity. They could steal your bank password, credit card details or Social Security number.

You’re not safe while traveling, either. A whopping 25% of tourists have been hacked through public Wi-Fi while abroad, TravelPulse reports

It’s time to upgrade your security strategy. The next time you want to connect to public Wi-Fi, follow these four steps.

1. Be cautious

Public Wi-Fi is open to everyone, which makes it a prime target for criminals. And every device is susceptible, whether it’s your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Several threats lurk behind links and tucked into programs that seem legitimate otherwise.

Therefore, you need an offensive strategy whenever you join a public network. Here are some things you should be skeptical of:

  • The network itself: Just because a public Wi-Fi network pops up and asks if you want to join doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. If you’re at a coffee shop or hotel, ask an employee for the specific name of their Wi-Fi network. Scammers will sometimes create networks called “Coffee Shop” or “Hotel Guest” to make you believe you’re connecting to the real thing when, actually, you’re not.
  • Links: Scammers can make links look enticing — but it’s all a trick. Look for red flags like outrageous claims or download prompts.

Here’s a little trick. To see what’s hiding behind a hyperlink, see what shows up in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen when you hover your mouse over it.

RELATED: The mapping tool is the perfect way to find free Wi-Fi

2. Avoid certain websites

Unless you plan to do general web surfing, it’s probably best to avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. Imagine someone is watching over your shoulder. Would you feel comfortable accessing sensitive information?

In that case, you probably wouldn’t check your credit card statement or log in to your Amazon Prime account. So when using public Wi-Fi, always assume that somebody out there is watching.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If it requires a username and password to log in, you should only access that site from your own private network.

3. Always have a backup plan

No one plans to lose their data. It happens unexpectedly, which is why it’s crucial to back up files at least once a week. It’s ideal to do it daily, but I get that it’s hard to remember.

Luckily, there are cybersecurity tools that do the backup work for you. Although there are many backup services, I prefer our sponsor, IDrive. It stands out as the best option in terms of protection and affordability.

Plus, it’s an excellent value for the price. Save a whopping 90% when you sign up at and use the promo code “Kim” at checkout.

4. Stay encrypted on public Wi-Fi networks

Encrypted data is essential to your online security when you connect to public networks. However, you can’t always trust that the network is encrypting that data for you.

Look at the URL in your browser’s address bar to see if a site is safe. Here are a few green flags:

  • The URL begins with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://. The S stands for secure.
  • There’s a padlock icon next to the URL, which means the site uses SS encryption to protect your data.

But you still may want to take additional precautions. We recommend using a VPN or Virtual Private Network. With the right software, you can easily create your own private network third parties can’t spy on.

Luckily for you, we wrote a simple guide to VPNs. Here’s how they work and how to choose the best one for you.

VPNs are lifesavers when on public Wi-Fi networks

Big Tech corporations are supposed to safely handle our personal online data, but now they’re getting into the political game. I don’t want to be a part of that, nor should you.

That’s why I trust and use our sponsor ExpressVPN. These Big Tech companies match your internet activity to your identity or location by using your public IP address, but with ExpressVPN, no one can see your IP address — no one.

Protect your privacy. Get three months free when you sign up for one year at

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