Public wi-fi. You've probably used it when you forgot to send an email in the Philadelphia airport at 3 am, or maybe you had 1 GB of data left on your phone plan for this month and ran to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts to FaceTime your grandmother. Public wireless internet is used by millions of Americans across the country; however, according to a survey conducted by Symantec, many of these people do not realize their sensitive information is at risk of being stolen. This begs the question: is wi-fi that's available to the public safe to use?
This can be a tricky question to answer, as the security of wi-fi varies from place to place. Places such as coffee shops and airports are filled with hotbeds of hackers, waiting to pounce on any trace of personal data they can get their hands on. One common trick that many hackers use is providing a duplicate of the most commonly used Wi-FI SSID, which is often "Free Wi-Fi" or "[Name of Public Place] Wi-Fi". Often times, if it is unsecured or provides access without a splash screen, it is a trick to get your credit card info.
The most secure option that you can use for a wireless connection is a personal virtual private network. A VPN (for short) allows you to connect securely to the Internet via another network. VPNs are often used in regions/countries where web access is restricted by government laws. Many businesses provide VPN access to their employees in order to access their documents on the go. While many VPN services may come at a price, it is worth it when compared to the value of your personal information.
Another alternative to the VPN is using your mobile data as a wireless hotspot. In the advanced age of smartphones that we live in, your phone can also act as a wireless hotspot.