Internet Safety: Public Wi-Fi & Online Shopping

We’re continuing on our internet safety theme from last month and diving further into how to protect yourself online when using public Wi-Fi or shopping online.

PUBLIC WI-FI

The thought of heading to the local coffee shop to “work from home” is alluring, but how safe is it? There are risks to using public Wi-Fi that you should know about before you click that “Join” button.

What’s the difference between home Wi-Fi and public Wi-Fi?

At home you make use of a router connected to a server owned by your internet service provider. You have elected to have a relationship with your provider and you should choose a provider you trust: every search and keystroke you enter passes through their server and can theoretically be accessed (except for encrypted passwords), although the terms under which that information can be accessed should be outlined in their Privacy Policy.

With public Wi-Fi, you can’t be sure who has access to the server you’re connecting to. Additionally, it is relatively easy for hackers using the same Wi-Fi to get in between you and the public server, even posing as the “free Wi-Fi” that you connect to, thereby gaining access to your personal information. To learn more about the dangers of public Wi-Fi, take a look at this article.

So, what to do about it?

When using public Wi-Fi, you should use a Virtual Private Network. A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your computer and the VPN server so that your data is protected. To learn more about VPNs check out this article.

ONLINE SHOPPING

You’re not alone if you prefer shopping from your couch rather than heading to a busy shopping centre. Over 84% of Canadians polled in 2018 purchased goods and services online, and that number continues to grow.

Along with payment information, shopping online means providing your address, phone number, and email address. You’re also potentially giving out other personal information just by virtue of what you are buying.

To keep your information safe, there are a number of guidelines you should follow. To begin with, don’t shop using public Wi-Fi, especially without a VPN. As mentioned above, it’s relatively simple for hackers using the same public Wi-Fi to retrieve the information you’re entering.

women on couch shopping with tablet

Shop online from home

Next, when shopping online, always pay with a credit card rather than connecting to your bank account. Many sites only accept credit cards, but this should be your standard operating procedure even with payment methods that allow you to connect to a bank account, such as PayPal. Payments made with credit cards can be more easily disputed and credit card companies are quicker to reimburse your money if there has been a breach. If a hacker gains access to your bank account through details you’ve entered online, you have a much smaller chance of ever seeing that money again.

Padlock Icon

Look for the padlock icon in the URL when entering personal information

Finally, always make sure the site is encrypted by checking for the padlock symbol in the site address which ensures that information you enter is secure as it travels between your computer and the site’s server. For some good tips on how to safely use your credit card online check out this article.

With more and more everyday objects able to connect to the internet, such as watches and home entertainment systems, there’s always more we can say about internet safety. Watch for more tips from us in the future here and on social media.

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