Public Wi-Fi can be dangerous. Here’s how VPNs keep you safe

Public Wi-Fi hotspots are everywhere, from coffee shops and airports to supermarkets.  However, many people don’t realize that accessing the internet through public Wi-Fi networks can pose a genuine threat to your online safety.

You may have heard about VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and their many security benefits but does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi? The answer is yes:

How a VPN protects you

A VPN protects you and your internet traffic on public networks and Wi-Fi hotspots. How? A VPN encrypts your data so that anyone spying on the network will only see scrambled nonsense. This way you can always be confident that you are secure when using public Wi-Fi!

    Why is public Wi-Fi dangerous?

    When using a public Wi-Fi network, you never know who else could be monitoring the internet connection. This can be a problem for several reasons:

    1. Data traffic on public Wi-Fi connections is not usually encrypted, so network security is easily compromised.
    2. Hackers can easily watch what you do and steal your sensitive data.
    3. Some people set up fake hotspots disguised to look legitimate, then use them to steal your sensitive information.

    Hackers have many different tricks to snoop on public Wi-Fi users. For example, some will divert traffic through their own node (known as a man-in-the-middle attack), allowing them to steal any data you transmit. Others may use your cookies (small settings files stored in your browser for certain websites) against you, hijacking them to gain access to your accounts.

    These and other tactics used by hackers make it difficult to know if you’re safe when using unsecured networks.

    What personal information is at risk on public Wi-Fi?

    Eavesdroppers on public networks can monitor network traffic and even steal any information that you enter on your device. For example, this data can include:

    • Credit card and bank account details
    • Social media passwords
    • Email login credentials
    • Any other personal information that you input

    Fortunately, a VPN service can prevent people from snooping on you and stealing your data. For this reason, a VPN connection is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself on public Wi-Fi.

    How does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi?

    How does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi?

    VPNs can protect you in more ways than one. Firstly, a VPN provider encrypts your data. This means that anybody snooping on a public Wi-Fi connection will only be able to see jumbled, unusable information. This way, you can ensure that your data is safe every time you use a public network.

    Other tips to stay safe on public Wi-Fi

    Besides using a VPN, there are a few other simple tricks you can use to stay safe on public Wi-Fi connections:

    Disable file sharing – Whatever device you’re using, there will be an option to disable file sharing. Choosing this, and avoiding AirDrop on iOS or printer sharing, will block possible routes that hackers can use to steal your sensitive data and personal information.

    Disable Wi-Fi auto-connect – Sometimes, hackers will use fake networks with the same name as a trusted network. If you disable auto-connect on your device, you won’t automatically connect to any fake networks.

    Avoid using login details – If you’re not using a VPN, avoid logging into your online accounts and inputting passwords when using a public network. This includes using passwords for online banking, email accounts, social media, and more.

    Can public Wi-Fi block a virtual private network?

    Yes, public Wi-Fi networks can block you from accessing them with a VPN. Whoever is hosting the connection gets to choose the terms of use, so occasionally, they will block them.

    However, anybody who intentionally blocks you from using a VPN is generally only doing it so they can track your online activity.

    If anyone’s blocking your VPN connection, try using a different port! With Surfshark, you can switch between OpenVPN TCP and UDP under the Advanced Settings.

    Use a VPN to stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks

    It’s important to understand the dangers of using public networks and take the proper action to protect yourself and your sensitive information. We recommend avoiding public Wi-Fi unless you really have to use it. 

    However, seeing as a VPN does protect you on public Wi-Fi, you should always use it when away from safe networks! 

    A VPN like Surfshark ensures high-level AES 256 GCM encryption for all your activities. Surfshark is also one of the most accessible ways to stay secure on public Wi-Fi. It’s affordable, easy to install, and you don’t need any technical knowledge whatsoever to use it, so it’s the perfect way to protect your data and get that extra peace of mind when using public networks. 

    Stay safe on public Wi-Fi with a VPN

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