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Free But Risky: 8 Security Tips for Public Wi-Fi Users

Danger often comes from an unexpected direction. For example, while you are alert to pickpockets, criminals may be approaching invisibly, over Wi-Fi.

With the current move of the government to make Wi-Fi available nationwide, global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab says Filipinos need to raise their guards up to protect their online safety.

Once the Senate Bill 1277 or Free Internet Access in Public Places Act is signed into law, all government offices and public facilities such as schools, transport terminals, hospitals, and public libraries nationwide will have free internet access.

“An open, free internet network is like a double-edged sword, it’s free but also definitely risky. It’s perfectly fine to feel excited about the anticipated public Wi-Fis in the entire Philippines. But we urge Filipinos to be very cautious, too. We would encourage them to first arm themselves with cyber savvy habits and knowledge to stay safe in a free network,” says Sylvia Ng, General Manager at Kaspersky Lab Southeast Asia.

With the prevalence of free networks, criminals set up fake free Wi-Fi networks, which users pay with a hefty price — their login credentials stolen from them.

Since it is difficult to spot these fake free networks, the best advice is to avoid using public Wi-Fi at all and to connect to the internet from home or via mobile only.

While this is Kaspersky Lab’s best advice, it is not practical in every circumstance or situation. So here are simple tips to protect themselves from free Wi-Fi threats:

1. Never trust open Wi-Fi networks that require no passwords. Cybercriminals often create such networks to sniff users personal data.

2. Networks with passwords are not fully reliable as well. A criminal can easily find out the password, which is used in a cafe or a shopping mall, and create a fake Wi-Fi hotspot with the same name.

3. Turn Wi-Fi off when you don’t use it. This measure will protect your data and help you save the battery life on your device. Check if your device is not setup to automatically connect to an unknown Wi-Fi network. If yes, turn it off. This measure will also protect you from tracking methods used by different organizations.