University of Southern California

What Are the Risks of Public Wifi?

Posted on by mechling

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to raise awareness about cybersecurity issues. Take some time this month to brush up on your cybersecurity knowledge and protect your digital information.

It is common practice to connect to public wifi at when at a coffee shop, the airport, or the library. Unfortunately, while public wifi may be convenient, it can present a security risk. Most free, public wifi networks are not encrypted, which means that the information you access and send while connected to public wifi might be intercepted by a hacker. Learn more about encryption here.

Most wifi hotspots – especially those that do not require a WPA or WPA2 password – are not secure. Using an unsecured network to log into an unencrypted website may allow other users to spy on your online activities and access your personal information.

If you choose to use a public wifi network, take the following steps to keep your information safe:

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypts traffic between your computer and the internet even when you are connected to an unsecured network. USC provides VPN software to all faculty, staff, and students. Learn more here.
  • Only send information through websites you know are fully encrypted. Learn how to tell whether a website is encrypted here.
  • Consider changing the settings on your mobile device so that it does not automatically connect to available public wifi networks.

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