As a location independent freelancer, I’m on the go a lot. This means I’m not always working from the comfort or, more importantly, the security, of my home.
While staying secure online is essential for us Trusty Oak virtual assistants working with client information, it’s also important for anyone working remotely or from a location that isn’t their home. It only takes a second for your important business information to be compromised! But, luckily, it doesn’t take much longer to ensure you stay safe and protected online.
What Is Unsecured Wi-Fi?
Generally, if you’re working from home or your office your internet connection is your own and thus secured. Your network should require a password to join, and since you are the network’s owner, it’s unlikely a random or untrusted user can gain access. Similarly, in an office environment, the network should be secured and accessible to only those granted access.
When you venture outside these places, however, connecting to the internet becomes a lot more risky.
It seems we can find Wi-Fi just about anywhere these days—coffee shops, bars and restaurants, airports and trains, and even public parks and malls! While convenient, these public Wi-Fi networks are more often than not unsecured. This means they do not require a password to join, or, even if they do need a password, the password is easy to find or guess (like a password posted on the wall in the coffee shop, or the all-too-common 12345). This means anyone can easily access the network—and use it for good or bad purposes. Yikes!
Why Are Public Wi-Fi Networks Risky?
When you’re using unsecured Wi-Fi, it’s easy for hackers, snoops, or anyone with not-so-admirable intentions to intercept your connection. This means the can view everything you are doing online, from the passwords you use to log in to websites, to personal details about you. If that isn’t bad enough, a snoop can also see all the websites you visit, who you communicate with, and how long you spend doing it! The risks to your personal and business information are huge.
How to Secure Your Internet Connection and Protect Your Privacy Online
Luckily, there are many quick and easy ways you can secure your internet connection on public Wi-Fi. The tips below will help you keep your information safe and private every time you connect, no matter where you are working from.
1. Think Before You Connect
The most important thing to do is to be aware that risks exist. Awareness means you will think about the networks you're joining, and this awareness will help you identify risks before they arise. Always think before you connect to an unsecured network, and avoid any networks that seem like they aren’t owned by a legitimate business or entity. Whether you’re working remotely every single day, or simply checking your email while in line at a coffee shop, it’s essential to keep privacy in mind.
2. Use a VPN
VPN stands for virtual private network, and is a tool which encrypts your internet connection to secure it. Encryption, in a nutshell, works by scrambling the information you send online so if someone is snooping on you they cannot see what you are doing—even if they intercept your connection. A VPN is a good tool to use whenever you are using a public or unsecured network, and there are a variety of easy applications available which work across smartphones, laptops and all your devices.
3. Always Use HTTPS
When visiting a website, always make sure the URL starts with HTTPS, as opposed to just HTTP. The “S” at end indicates your connection is secured, adding a level of protection.
4. Use a Password Manager
When sharing passwords with clients or others it’s important to do so securely. There are a variety of tools available to manage passwords for you, eliminating the need to send them via email or scribble them on scraps of paper that could easily get lost. It’s also important not to share passwords with anyone you do not know, of course!
Another way to protect your passwords is to enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. This means a website will require you to not only enter your password, but confirm your login with a second set of credentials (often a secure code, sent to you by text message or email). This process adds a level of security and should be used for all important logins.
5. Adjust your privacy settings
Many websites and networks collect information about you as you browse online, including details like sites visited, time spent doing tasks, or your location. These sites and services often opt users in automatically, meaning they collect the information by default. As a result, it’s important to check your privacy settings and change them to ensure you are only sharing information you want to be.
There you have it, some tips for staying safe online as you are working remotely and on-the-go!