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The One Simple (And Powerful) Tool You Need To Protect Your Privacy

Do you take advantage of free wifi when available?

According to a report performed by Norton, if you answered yes, you are not alone! Globally, the following percentage of web users have connected at least one device to public wifi:

Millennials: 95%, Generation X: 89%, Baby Boomers: 55%

Having great WiFi availability is convenient, although it’s important to understand the real risks of connecting to these networks.

The goals of this post are to:

  1. Provide information regarding one of the major risks associated with using these public networks.
  2. Explain why you need a VPN to keep your privacy and data secure.
Photo of a few people at a cafe getting work done on a public wifi network.

Understanding the type of Wifi Networks available

Public wifi access networks come in many forms, both free and paid.

Free public wifi networks are available at places such as cafes, and airports. These are the kind of networks that you connect to without paying a fee.

Usually, you click on a checkbox accepting a disclaimer and then you’re on your way to surfing the web in minutes.

Paid public wifi networks are the type of networks in which you pay a fee to access the internet. These type of networks are the ones you find on airplanes or hotels and are usually for a set amount of time.

These also include networks that your home internet or cable provider give you access to while on the go. On the West Coast and many other regions of the U.S., think AT&T or Comcast.

Why paid or password-protected networks do not guarantee your data are secure.

Password protected and or paid wifi networks do not protect your data from others.

As long as other unknown users can connect to the same network, your private data are vulnerable.

This is regardless of the type of network you connect to. To better understand why, we need to first understand how hackers can get their hands on your data in the first place.

The Usual Way Your Data Flows

A wifi network uses a router to establish a connection between your device and the internet. These always-available-connections are what provide daily convenience to our lives in the absence of cellular service. Normal activities that can only occur during business hours are now available to us around the clock.

Classic Example: Logging in to an account on a website

  • You connect to public wifi network.
  • You open up your browser, type in the website address and hit enter.
  • Your computer sends a request for the website to a server on the internet.
  • Requested website loads in your browser.
  • You type in your username, password and hit enter.
  • Your computer sends your login through the network to the website to verify.
  • Your account information appears.

Common Way Your Data Can Get Hacked On Public WIFI

  • You connect to public wifi network.
  • You open up your browser, type in your website address and hit enter.
  • Your data flows through hackers computer to the internet.
  • Your computer sends a request for the website to a server on the internet.
  • Hacker gets excited when he sees your request flow through his computer en route to internet.
  • The website loads in your browser.
  • You type in your username, password and hit enter.
  • Hacker views login information you submitted as it travels through his computer to the website.
  • Your account information appears.
  • Hacker now has access to your login.

It’s important to note that the hacking scenario described above is one of the many that exists. In future post I will cover other online behavior that also compromise online security. Click the yellow Subscribe button at the bottom of this post to receive future updates!

How can you best protect your data ?

Method 1: Check the website for SSL encryption

The lock signals to your browser that the site has established a direct connection with your device, as a result your connection is secure but may unfortunately be connected to a spoofed site. This is another popular method used by hackers, therefore I will cover this topic in a future post.
Note: this lock does not verify that you are on a legitimate website.

Method 2:
Use a Virtual Private Network, aka a VPN
A VPN provides you an encrypted connection during all times you are connected to a network. The VPN jumps in front of hackers, and even your own internet provider acting as a virtual shield as your data flows from your computer to the network.

The way the VPN does this is by installing a lightweight client (app or software package) on your device. When you submit a request through your browser or app the client scrambles the request.

Your encrypted data is then routed through a multi-layered, secured connection.

To put this process in an everyday scenario, I’ll use the analogy of sending a letter in the mail.

Let’s say you are sending a sensitive document, for example your tax return. There are some obvious risks with sending sensitive data via regular mail such as mail theft, so you decide against regular mail.

Instead, you decide to send your tax return via Fedex to ensure your documents are trackable. This allows you to track where your documents are at all times so the you have the peace of mind that the document will arrive at its destination.

A VPN is like a virtual FedEx on steroids. It not only makes sure your tax documents get there on time, it scrambles your tax documents upon receipt. This happens before it even accepts the document for transit. It then uses a route only it can use to get your documents to its destination, ensuring no-one can hijack it. Finally, it unscrambles your document so it can be read by the recipient.

VPN Recommendation

While connected to the internet I have picked up the habit of using a VPN. It really is a no-brainer when it comes to protecting your data. There are also other added benefits I appreciate, such as full privacy.

The provider I use daily is called Private Internet Access. The reasons below are whyI selected PIA out of many choices:

  • They have a lot of servers available. This allows you to connect to a nearby server which increases your web browsing speed. If you sign up with a provider who’s servers are far away, this decreases your internet speed.
  • They support file sharing.
  • They have an app that allows you to connect on your smartphone, tablet or computer with the click of a button.
  • 5 users can use the account at the same time. This makes it useful for people or families with many devices.

I have partnered with Private Internet Access so that you can save money on their VPN service. If you click this link to sign up, you can get protected for as low as $2.91/month. A 58% savings over their regular price. They also offer a 7 day money back guarantee.

As an alternative, here’s a link to another VPN that I recommend: NordVPN. They are offering service for $2.99 month as a New Years special and is available by clicking on this link.

Disclaimer: I may receive a commission for services you sign up for, or purchases you make through links I have posted. Your purchases through links posted, allow me to support and invest time in this blog.

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