When you travel, it's tempting to use the public Wi-Fi network at the airport, coffee shops and other venues, or even the guest login provided for your hotel room. But you probably shouldn't.
Public Wi-Fi is open to everyone, which makes it a prime target for hackers. And every device is susceptible, no matter if it's your laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Recent issues with Airbnb rentals are a perfect example. At a Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, security researchers met to discuss some of the latest cybersecurity threats out there.
One such threat was related to the risks of using Wi-Fi while staying at (or renting out, for that matter) an Airbnb rental. Click here to see what vulnerabilities the researchers found.
But it's not just Airbnb, hotels, coffee shops or the airport you need to worry about. The truth is, you need to be careful whenever you join a public network.
That's why, if you must use public Wi-Fi, you need to follow these tips to protect yourself:
1. Ask for the network name
Just because a public Wi-Fi network pops up and asks if you want to join, doesn't mean it's legitimate. 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.
2. Be skeptical of links
Scammers are skilled at making links seem enticing so you'll fall for their trick, but there are some signs that should make you think twice before you click.
First, if a site makes an outrageous claim or sounds too good to be true, it's probably not legitimate. Second, if you're prompted to download something, you probably should avoid it.
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.
3. Avoid certain websites
Unless you're planning to do some general web surfing, it's probably best to avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. When using public Wi-Fi, always assume that somebody out there is watching. Never log on to your banking site when connected to public Wi-Fi.
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.
4. Stay encrypted
When you do connect to public networks, encrypted data is essential to your online security. However, you can't always trust that the network is encrypting that data for you. Visiting SSL sites, or websites that begin with the letters H-T-T-P-S means that the data exchanged is being encrypted.
But you still may want to take additional precautions. Click here to learn an easy way to ensure every website you visit is secure.
5. Use VPNs
You might not realize that it's easy to create your own private network. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, can be created wherever you go if you have the right software. There are several apps that create VPNs, as well as online security software.