DMA HOW-TO: Protect Your Data When Using Public Wireless Networks

By Yishan Lin

Having privacy while you surf the internet is no joke. Ultimately it’s up to you to take safeguards to protect your data (and your computer) when using a public wireless networks.

Mac users can easily access security settings from the System Preferences.

Protecting Your Digital Self
For users frequently on the go, finding free and fast Wi-Fi is great. Most airports and hotels provide a wireless connection, while some are free others require a fee.

Still, it’s not uncommon to find multiple Wi-Fi networks with no passwords and promising titles like “Fast, Free Wi-Fi”. As inviting as these networks may seem, unsecured networks can be dangerous and ultimately do significant damage to your data.

How? Hackers can use your connection to an unsecured network to access your personal information like your banking information, social media passwords, email and more. Use this guide to protect yourself and your computer when online:

1. Turn Off File Sharing. On an Apple Macintosh, go to the System Preferences application and then click on the Sharing section. Make sure every box is unchecked. Then click the lock icon on the bottom left to save your settings.

For Windows users, go to the Control Panel => Network and Internet => Network and Sharing Center => click on Homegroup and Sharing Options => and finally Change Advanced Sharing Settings.

Protect Your Data When Using Public using-public-wireless-networks

2. Enable Your firewall. In the same System Preferences application on your Mac, you can go to the Security section and then click on Firewall. Make sure that the firewall is turned on. In addition, if you’re still not feeling secure, you can go to your Firewall advanced settings and activate the computer’s “stealth mode.”

For Windows users, go to the Control Panel => System and Security => Windows Firewall.

3. Turning off Wi-Fi (when not in use). The problem with having your wireless open all the time is that the longer you’re loitering, the more attention you’re attracting to your computer as it’s constantly searching for a connection. On your Macintosh, just click the Airport icon on the top right corner of the toolbar and then simply click Turn off. Go back to that Airport icon to turn it back on when you need it again.

For Windows users, right click your wireless icon to toggle your Wi-Fi on or off.

Each Thursday Digital Media Academy publishes a new DMA HOW-TO.