If you work from home, you know that sometimes you just need to get out of the house. Working from a public place may be exactly what you need to stay on task, but how can you make sure your data is safe when you’re abroad? There is no substitute for using your own secure Wi-Fi when it comes to privacy, but there are a few steps you can take to give your data the best possible chance of reaching its destination without disturbance.
Find out who is hosting it
One of the first and perhaps the most important steps is to make sure that you know who is hosting the Wi-Fi hotspot you are using. For example, if you are calling a coffee shop, there will often be a sign with the Wi-Fi name and password setting. You can also ask the host or operator if you are not sure. Some local stores may use daily alternating passwords to prevent people from stealing your connection.
Although this does not mean security, it is a good step to make sure that you are not connecting to an access point disguised as a trusted connection.
Use basic security
The fact of the matter is that your best bet for online security is to practice the basics. I know you’ve heard it all before, but sign up for two-factor authentication at every service they offer and, if possible, use an authentication app via SMS or email verification.
In addition, be sure to use good, strong passwords that cannot be easily guessed. You can use a password manager to track it behind a master password. Apple and Samsung include fairly powerful managers in their software that are backed by hardware-specific security. This will not completely protect you from phishing attacks that can trick you into providing this information, but it does help with overall security.
Don’t give your authentication codes to anyone else, even if they seem to work for the company you’re trying to contact. These codes authenticate you and do not prove to someone on the phone who you are.
It’s also a good idea, in general, to make sure that your device has the latest updates installed so that known vulnerabilities have the best chance of being patched. Hopefully, your device is set to update automatically.
Use your own data
Many of the best mobile plans include some hotspot data, which allows you to turn your phone into a personal hotspot using LTE or 5G data on your Wi-Fi devices. You can use Wi-Fi security with this connection and you don’t even need to broadcast your SSID if you don’t want others to see your hotspot.
Moreover, you can use a USB cable to connect your computer using the hotspot data. Some phones even allow you to use a USB-C to Ethernet adapter to share your connection. (Samsung Galaxy S devices generally have these features built in.) This works best with Windows PCs but if you have an iPhone, connecting to a Lightning to USB-C cable on your Mac works just fine.
T-Mobile includes unlimited data for 3G hotspots with its unlimited plans, and both Magenta and Magenta Max include some high-speed data as well. AT&T includes hotspot data on its more expensive unlimited plans, and Verizon includes hotspot data with its 5G Play More, Do More, and Get More plans. Prepaid companies often also include some hotspot data. Especially visible includes unlimited 5Mbps hotspot data, although some users report faster speeds.
Check partner’s Wi-Fi
Many Internet service providers also provide public Wi-Fi hotspots to customers away from their home networks. If you use home internet from AT&T, Cox, Spectrum, Xfinity, or any other client, you’ve probably seen in your area open connections with names like XfinityWiFi. They are hosted on portals provided by your ISP and will require you to sign in with your account to access the web.
Make sure you enable two-factor authentication with your ISP to ensure that even if your login information is compromised, you won’t give up access to your account.
Your wireless service provider might offer some security options when you’re on public Wi-Fi. AT&T’s Unlimited Extra and Elite plans come with advanced AT&T ActiveArmor security, which comes with a VPN when connected to public Wi-Fi. To use it, you’ll need to log into the AT&T Mobile Security app, which will be able to install the VPN profile on your Android or iPhone.
Verizon offers the Safe Wi-Fi app, which requires an additional $3.99 subscription. T-Mobile also has McAfee Security for T-Mobile included in the Protection package <360> , which comes at $7 per month with other perks. It’s worth noting that all of these VPN solutions use partners to host servers and as such, it can be difficult to know how private your information is on these VPNs. The same is true of free VPNs, which often offer the service in exchange for your anonymous data.
How about a VPN?
Finally, and perhaps the most effective solution, is to use a VPN. Make no mistake, if your apps and websites use secure encrypted connections, a VPN may not be necessary. The problem is that you don’t always know how secure they are under the service. A VPN encrypts your connection at least as much as its servers so that anyone who might be eavesdropping locally is bypassed.
VPN providers, at least worthwhile, tend to be somewhat transparent about how they use your data. For the best level of security and privacy, you want one that doesn’t save user logs. One of the best VPN deals you can get, Express VPN, does not collect user logs.
If you are a Samsung user, you can also access Samsung Secure Wi-Fi, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that includes 1GB per month. You can extend this service with an unlimited subscription or a daily pass as well. Google Fi customers can also access a Google VPN with their plan.
The best thing about a VPN solution is that most of the services will let you use one subscription on multiple devices simultaneously. If your workflow includes a laptop, tablet, and phone, you can add your VPN to all of them.
Using a VPN does not take away the importance of other security considerations such as using two-factor authentication, but it can be a useful additional layer. And if you work for a large business or organization, there may already be a VPN solution available for you. The question does not hurt.
Find the right solution for you
If you are looking for the simplest solution, setting up a VPN from a well-reviewed provider is one of your best bets. VPNs are not always an ideal solution as they can be a bit tricky to navigate between connections; By their very nature, they reduce network performance by adding a few extra hops in your connection.
However, VPNs will work with other solutions offered including using your own hotspot. While ease of implementation can vary by platform, setting up a VPN on Android or a VPN on a Chromebook is a fairly simple procedure, and enabling or disabling it only takes a few seconds.
You also have the option to use your phone’s hotspot data so you can make sure you know who is hosting your internet connection. If you don’t have hotspot data, upgrading with an additional plan usually only takes a few minutes, or you may find a plan that better suits your needs.
Additionally, don’t forget that if you’re working from public Wi-Fi, your company may already have instructions available, so it’s worth sending this email. They can even cover the cost of a VPN service.