Most devices today need an Internet connection to be useful, but anyone can set up a free Wi-Fi network and fool you into handing over your personal data.
- Know or verify who owns Wi-Fi or wired networks before you connect
- Connect to secured networks whenever possible
- Don’t connect to sensitive accounts if you’re using public Wi-Fi
- Use VPN connections if you have to connect to a public network
- Password protect your home Wi-Fi network
Know who runs a Wi-Fi network
Criminals know people connect to free Wi-Fi networks without thinking twice. It’s easy for them to mimic legitimate free sources of Wi-Fi (such as coffee shops, libraries, and hotels) and then track all the information that goes over that network.
For example, UNLV’s Wi-Fi network for campus visitors is called UNLV-Guest. A criminal could try to set up a network called UNLV Free Wi-Fi to trick you into connecting. They may then use your network traffic to sign in to your email, websites you visited, and more.
To protect yourself, always ask a cashier, front desk person, etc. to verify the name of the Wi-Fi network you should be using.
Connect to Secured Networks
Many places offer secured network connections to guests, customers, or employees. Look for a lock icon next to the Wi-Fi network name. You may have to ask for a password in order to connect.
At UNLV, we offer the UNLV-Secure Wi-Fi network for employees and students. It encrypts your data over the network, protecting your information as it travels between your device and its destination. Get your UNLV-Secure access today.
Don’t access sensitive information over public networks
If you do connect to a public Wi-Fi network, even if you’ve verified it’s run be a legitimate source, you should avoid connecting to sensitive websites like your bank account. Criminals on the same network can “listen in” on the information, record it, and use it to access your accounts later.
Use VPN connections
To help protect yourself from criminals intercepting your network traffic, consider using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. A VPN creates a tunnel through a public network so criminals can’t see your network traffic. UNLV offers VPN service for university employees, allowing you to connect to the Internet and to university resources as if you were connecting from on campus.
Otherwise, there are many VPN services available to consumers. Some you can use for free and some require a paid subscription. Research options thoroughly before choosing one, however, as some will sell your browsing data to companies for marketing or other purposes.
Protect your home Wi-Fi
You probably use your home network to access your most sensitive private information, such as bank accounts, tax accounts, and more. Always password protect your home Wi-Fi network with a strong password to prevent someone from intercepting your traffic and gaining access to that information.
The best security for your home router is WPA2. Other forms of security (WPA, WEP) are better than nothing, but can be easily cracked by someone with ill intentions. Refer to your router or Internet provider’s documentation on how to secure your home Wi-Fi network.