Geeks2U Promise
We guarantee you'll love our fast, friendly service - or we'll refund your money.  
133,572 Happy Customers & Counting
Need tech support?
1300 769 448
Extended hours, 7 days a week
Home  /  geekspeak  /  Fire up your VPN when using public Wi-Fi

Fire up your VPN when using public Wi-Fi

It’s best to play it safe when you’re out of the office using someone else’s Wi-Fi network.

Mobile data has traditionally been rather expensive in Australia so we’re in the habit of jumping onto free Wi-Fi networks wherever we find them—from cafes and shopping centres to sporting stadiums and airport lounges. These days mobile data costs have fallen and monthly download allowances are more generous, yet we still tend to use free public Wi-Fi when we’re out and about.

The trouble with using public Wi-Fi is that you don’t know who controls the network and whether they’re trying to eavesdrop on your online activities. In somewhere like an airport lounge, who is to say that the nearby “Public_WiFi” network isn’t really being generated by someone sitting at the next table, hoping that you’ll assume it’s a legitimate network?

Even if you are connecting to a legitimate Wi-Fi network in somewhere like a cafe, can you be sure that the network hasn’t been infiltrated by someone who is up to no good? The cafe owner might make a great latte, but what are their credentials when it comes to wireless network security? Would they even know if someone was lurking on the network, watching for passwords and other sensitive information?

If you can’t vouch for the integrity of a Wi-Fi network then it’s best to engage a virtual private network (VPN) to cloak your activities. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device—your computer, smartphone or tablet—and the VPN server. The VPN server then acts as your gateway to the internet.

The benefit of this is that no-one else on the Wi-Fi network can monitor what you’re doing online, not even the network operator. They might be able to tell that you’ve created a secure encrypted connection, but they can’t peer inside to see what you’re doing.

There are plenty of free and paid VPN providers to choose from, although you tend to get what you pay for in terms of speed and security so be wary of using a free service to protect important business data.

Alternatively you might run your own VPN server in the office and let remote staff connect directly to that server. One advantage of this is that your people are making a secure connection all the way to the office, rather than just to a third-party VPN server in the cloud. Another advantage is that once connected to the office VPN, your people can access in-house servers and other systems that aren’t accessible across the open internet.

As Australia’s 4G mobile data networks become cheaper and faster there’s less and less reason to use public Wi-Fi hotspots, but if you do, it’s important to take sensible precautions to protect your privacy.

Share

Recent News

Microsoft has announced that anyone still using Windows 7 is essentially living on borrowed time. To be specific, the software giant has stated that it will cease offering new security updates to Windows 7 users from 14 January 2020. Windows 7 has had a solid run, given that it first became available to consumers on… More 

Popular social media destination Facebook made worldwide headlines recently, and not for the kinds of reasons that Facebook might want to be noticed. That’s because for a roughly 12 hour period, access not just to Facebook, but also Instagram and Whatsapp — all services owned and operated by Facebook — consumers worldwide had issues connecting… More 

There’s a well-known test that taxi drivers in London have to sit, called “The Knowledge”, that can take years to pass, detailing just about every street in the UK’s very disorganised capital road system. It’s tough learning that many roads, although it may have side benefits, with some studies suggesting that London black cab drivers… More 

Not that long ago, Apple surprised everyone by updating its line of Mac Mini computers. The Mac Mini isn’t like any other Mac that Apple sells. Where much of its output is in laptops, or the 2-in-1 style iMac computers, the Mac Mini is instead a “headless” computer — a fancy way of saying that… More