When traveling with technology devices, a common question for most people is “Can someone see my internet history if I use their WiFi?”
This is because most public places will offer free Wi-Fi that is unsecured and open to the public for use.
Whether you are connecting to Wi-Fi for business or pleasure, it is important to understand good security practices.
It is always best practice to never share your passwords with anybody or to leave your technology unattended in a public place.
Use vigilance and common sense to protect your data and information.
Can Someone See My Internet History If I Use Their Guest Wifi?
Wi-Fi is a wireless connection protocol that allows devices to connect to internet-connected devices.
Without Wi-Fi, it would be impossible to connect to a router and browse the internet. So, what information is shared when connected to Wi-Fi?
If you are connected to an open Wi-Fi then you are putting yourself at high risk for others to view your activity. This is because unsecured Wi-Fi sends traffic information, such as IP addresses, in plain text.
Depending on the websites you are accessing, you might be sending sensitive data such as passwords in plain text as well.
Note: An open, unsecured, or public Wi-Fi is any wireless connection that does not require a password to connect. Public Wi-Fi is often found at businesses such as coffee shops, airports, salons, etc.
What Can I Do to Secure My Information?
Cybersecurity has become a standard practice in the world today thanks to the exponentially growing technology market.
Because of this, there are several methods for a consumer to use to protect their data every day.
These methods include:
- Use a VPN
- Configure browser security settings
In general, the best practice for maintaining a strong security posture is to utilize security software and hardware to protect your data.
How to Secure Your WiFi Information?
One way a hacker can access sensitive data is to sit at a public Wi-Fi area, such as a coffee shop for example, and watch traffic pass through the Wi-Fi using a program called Wireshark.
Wireshark will simply list all traffic packets as they pass through networking gear on that Wi-Fi network.
If someone at the same coffee shop enters their bank password and username, it is possible that information will be shared with the hacker using Wireshark.
Use a VPN to Encrypt Your Data
The best method to protect your data from being exploited via Wireshark on an open network is to install and use a VPN.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.
A VPN works by creating a secure connection to a trusted source before accessing the open internet. In the diagram below, two situations are compared.
The first scenario illustrates a laptop connecting to open Wi-Fi, and then sending internet traffic in plain text for everyone on that network to see.
The second scenario illustrates the benefit of using a VPN. The laptop connects to the open Wi-Fi, then connects to a VPN, and that allows the traffic to be encrypted and private.
There are many options available for VPN use.
For example, Nord VPN offers “peace of mind when on public Wi-Fi” for as little as $4.13 per month. Other notable VPN providers are ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, Surfshark, and Hotspot Shield.
Each VPN company will have its own pricing and offer various features such as adblockers for certain web browsers.
If shopping for a VPN, choose one that encrypts your internet traffic. Any other features provided are just bonuses.
Configure Browser Security Settings
Most browsers are configured to offer users the best experience when surfing the web. To do this, browsers will save various amounts of data.
For example, Google Chrome can save usernames and passwords for users.
When they opt to have their username and password saved, they will not have to enter it the next time they browse to that website.
In cybersecurity, there is always a fine line between convenience and security.
While it might be nice to not have to enter a Facebook password every time you visit Facebook, it is also a security risk involved with having the credentials saved.
To configure your browser to be more secure, there are a few settings you can change.
First, disable Autofill. Autofill is when form data is saved for a specific website. This data is saved in a remote location, putting your information at risk of being stolen by hackers.
Form data is any data entered into fields on a website. For example, when you sign up for Facebook, you must enter personal information such as your name, birthday, and email address.
This information can be saved by your browser so that you do not have to enter it again next time. Obviously, this is a security risk.
The next setting you can change in your browser to make it more secure involves the browser’s handling of cookies.
Cookies are little bytes of data saved locally to your device regarding websites. For example, if you search Amazon for makeup brushes, you will have a cookie saved to your laptop with that search history.
Cookies are mostly harmless, but when accessed by a hacker, they can be detrimental to your security.
For example, if you have cookies saved to your device that have information about flight plans, a hacker will know where you will be and when. They can then use this information to attempt theft.
The best practice for internet cookies is to configure your browser to delete cookies after each browsing session. Furthermore, depending on browser settings, you can even block cookies entirely.
Keep in mind that blocking and deleting cookies will have a negative impact on your internet browsing, because convenience items such as saved passwords and search history will be deleted.
However, this is a necessary sacrifice to protect your data.
Get a High Quality Antivirus
An effective antivirus is crucial to internet privacy. Hackers have found new ways to install spyware on systems. One method that a hacker can use to install spyware is by sending a false link in an email.
A person will click this link, thinking it is legitimate, but instead will end up installing the spyware in the background.
Without an effective antivirus, that person will have lost private information before they even know the spyware was installed.
Spyware is malicious software that captures data, such as keystrokes for passwords, and sends that data to a hacker.
To counteract hackers and malware, it is recommended to install and maintain a good antivirus program on your technology devices.
Antimalware and antivirus programs are available for most common technologies, including laptops, desktops, tablets, and cell phones.
To pick a good antivirus, it is important to understand what each program does when handling malware.
Most antivirus applications will quarantine malware files, some may temporarily lock the file to be scanned, and some will simply block the file from being run altogether.
Quarantine is when an antivirus program isolates a potentially malicious file from the rest of the operating system, often waiting for further action from the user.
Most programs will delete contents in quarantine after a certain amount of time.
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When it comes to protecting your information online, there are a lot of steps you can take to maintain a highly secured profile.
As long as you approach each click with critical thinking and common sense, and utilize the tips outlined in this guide, you will greatly reduce the risk of your information being stolen in a cyber-attack.