Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi: Best Practices for Secure Browsing

The convenience of public Wi-Fi networks can’t be overstated. Whether it’s at a coffee shop, airport, hotel, or library, these open networks provide us the means to stay connected on the go. But this convenience often comes with risks. As the founder of, I’ve spent years helping individuals ensure their online security, and using public Wi-Fi safely is a topic I feel strongly about. Here are some best practices to keep your data safe when connected to public Wi-Fi.

Understand the Risks of Public Wi-Fi

As a concerned online user, it is important to be aware of the potential risks that come with using public Wi-Fi networks. Due to their lack of encryption, the data that you send and receive over these networks could potentially be intercepted by third parties with malicious intent. This puts your personal and sensitive information at risk, as cybercriminals can exploit these vulnerabilities to steal your credentials or distribute malware.

It is important to exercise caution when using public Wi-Fi networks and avoid accessing any sensitive information or conducting financial transactions while connected. Additionally, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to add an extra layer of security to your online activities. By adopting safe and responsible online practices, you can help protect your information from falling into the wrong hands.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

When you are using public Wi-Fi, it is important to be mindful of the security risks associated with it. Your activities online can be easily spied on and your data can be accessed by anyone on the network. However, with the use of a VPN, you can have a strong first line of defense against these threats.

A VPN encrypts your internet connection, which means that anyone attempting to spy on you will not be able to decipher what you are doing online.

It is recommended that you use a reliable VPN provider, such as PrivadoVPN, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Surfshark, or IPVanish, all of which have strong encryption and a no-logs policy. By using a VPN, you can enjoy the convenience and freedom of public Wi-Fi without compromising your online security.

Enable HTTPS

When you’re accessing the internet on public Wi-Fi, your personal information and browsing history could be at risk. As such, it’s crucial to take extra precautions to keep your online activities secure.

One of the best ways to do this is by making sure that you visit websites that use HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP. HTTPS uses encryption to secure the data exchange between your browser and the site you’re visiting, ensuring that your sensitive information remains private and protected.

To check if a website uses HTTPS, just look for the padlock icon in the address bar – this is an indication that the site is secure and can be trusted. So next time you hit the coffee shop or library to browse the web on public Wi-Fi, keep these tips in mind to keep your online privacy and security intact.

Turn off File Sharing

Your device might be set to share files or allow remote login from other devices on the same network. These settings are usually safe to use at home, but on a public Wi-Fi network, they can expose your device to risk. Here’s how to turn off file sharing on popular platforms:


  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Click on ‘Network and Internet.’
  3. Click on ‘Network and Sharing Center.’
  4. Click on ‘Change advanced sharing settings.’
  5. In the ‘Public’ (or ‘Guest’) profile, turn off file and printer sharing, and turn off network discovery.
  6. Click ‘Save changes.’


  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of the screen.
  2. Select ‘System Preferences.’
  3. Click on ‘Sharing.’
  4. Uncheck all the services in the list to turn off file sharing.


Android doesn’t have a universal ‘file sharing’ setting that applies to all apps and services. Instead, you’ll need to go into the settings for each individual app that you’ve allowed to share files (such as Google Photos, Google Drive, etc.), and turn off sharing manually.


  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap on ‘General.’
  3. Tap on ‘AirPlay & Handoff.’
  4. Toggle off ‘Handoff.’

In addition to turning off file sharing, it’s also a good idea to disable automatic connections to open Wi-Fi networks. This will prevent your device from automatically connecting to potentially unsafe networks without your knowledge. Always ensure you are connecting to known and trusted networks when using public Wi-Fi.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Even if a cybercriminal manages to get your password, they would need the second factor (usually a code sent to your phone) to access your account.

There are several reputable 2FA apps that you can use to enhance your account security:

  • Google Authenticator: This is a free app from Google that generates 2FA codes on your smartphone. It’s straightforward to use and supports a wide range of online accounts.
  • Authy: Authy is known for its robust security and user-friendly interface. One advantage of Authy is that it allows you to back up your 2FA codes, making it easier to move to a new device.
  • Microsoft Authenticator: Similar to Google Authenticator, this app generates 2FA codes. It also supports biometric authentication, adding an extra layer of security.
  • LastPass Authenticator: If you’re already using LastPass as a password manager, its authenticator app is a convenient choice. It offers one-tap authentication, making it even quicker to verify your identity.
  • Duo Mobile: Duo Mobile is loved by corporate users but also offers a free version for personal use. It provides a range of authentication methods, including one-tap approval and security code generation.

All these apps work by linking with your online accounts to provide an additional layer of security. When logging in, you’ll need to enter a code generated by the app, proving that you have access to the trusted device where the app is installed.

Remember, while 2FA is a significant improvement on password security alone, no security method is entirely foolproof. Always remain vigilant and follow all recommended security practices to keep your online accounts safe.

Use Antivirus Software

Good antivirus software can detect and eliminate threats before they harm your device. It’s a wise idea to have a reliable antivirus solution installed and updated on your device at all times. Some reputable antivirus software providers include:

  • Norton Antivirus: One of the most well-known antivirus providers, Norton offers a comprehensive suite of tools for protection against various types of malware, including viruses, ransomware, and spyware. It also includes advanced security features like a VPN for online privacy and a password manager.
  • Bitdefender Antivirus: Bitdefender offers robust malware protection and includes features like anti-phishing, anti-fraud, and secure browsing. Its advanced algorithms can detect and neutralize threats before they infect your system.
  • Kaspersky Anti-Virus: Kaspersky is a globally recognized antivirus solution with strong capabilities in detecting and removing malware. It also provides features like a VPN and a password manager in its comprehensive security packages.
  • Avast Antivirus: Avast offers both free and premium antivirus solutions. Its software provides dependable protection against malware, and it also includes a network security scanner.
  • McAfee Antivirus: Known for its high-quality security suites, McAfee provides solid protection against malware and includes additional features such as performance optimization, a firewall, and a VPN.

Remember, while having antivirus software is essential, keeping it up to date is equally important. Regular updates ensure your software can recognize and defend against the latest discovered threats. So, always ensure your antivirus software is set to update automatically.

Combined with the other security measures in this guide, a robust antivirus software will help protect you from the majority of threats you might encounter when using public Wi-Fi.

Keep Your Devices Updated

Regular software and system updates include security patches for recent threats. Keeping your device and all apps updated is vital for protecting yourself from known vulnerabilities. Here are the methods to update the most popular operating systems:

Windows OS:

  1. Click the Start button in the lower-left corner of the screen.
  2. Click on the Settings gear icon.
  3. Choose ‘Update & Security.’
  4. Click ‘Check for updates.’ Windows will now check for available updates and install them automatically.


  1. Click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of the screen.
  2. Choose ‘System Preferences.’
  3. Click ‘Software Update.’
  4. If there are updates available, click ‘Update Now.’ You can also check the box for ‘Automatically keep my Mac up to date’ to enable automatic updates.


  1. Open your device’s Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap ‘System’ or ‘Software Update’ (this may vary depending on your device).
  3. Tap ‘Check for updates.’ If there are updates available, tap ‘Download’ or ‘Update.’


  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap ‘General.’
  3. Tap ‘Software Update.’
  4. If there’s an update available, tap ‘Download and Install.’

Remember to connect your device to Wi-Fi and ensure it’s charged (or connected to power) when updating to avoid any interruptions. Also, it’s a good idea to back up your device before updating to protect your data in case anything goes wrong.

Staying on top of updates can seem tedious, but it is one of the most straightforward ways to protect your devices from security vulnerabilities. It’s highly recommended to enable automatic updates where possible so that you can always have the latest security patches and feature enhancements.

Use Private Browsing Mode

Private browsing (like Incognito Mode in Google Chrome) doesn’t make you invisible to hackers or your ISP, but it does prevent your browsing history from being stored on your device. If someone gains access to your device, they won’t be able to see what sites you’ve visited. Here’s how to access this mode in various browsers:

Google Chrome:

  1. Click the three dots in the top right corner.
  2. Select ‘New incognito window.’

Microsoft Edge:

  1. Click the three dots in the top right corner.
  2. Select ‘New InPrivate window.’


  1. Click ‘File’ from the top menu.
  2. Select ‘New Private Window.’


  1. Click the three lines in the top right corner.
  2. Select ‘New Private Window.’

While these options provide a level of privacy, they only prevent your browser from storing information about your browsing session—they don’t hide your activity from your ISP or anyone else monitoring your network connection. For this reason, using a browser that’s designed with privacy in mind, such as Brave Browser, can be a wise choice.

Brave Browser blocks all ads and website trackers by default, and it also has a built-in feature to upgrade your connections to HTTPS for added security. Brave is built on the same engine as Chrome (Chromium), so it feels familiar to use but with additional privacy and security features. You can download Brave from their official website and use it just like any other browser, but with more confidence that your data is being protected.

Combining private browsing with a secure VPN connection and other security measures will offer you a significantly safer browsing experience, especially on public Wi-Fi networks.


Staying safe on public Wi-Fi isn’t difficult, but it does require awareness and a few proactive measures. By following these best practices, you can take advantage of the convenience of public Wi-Fi while minimizing the associated risks. Remember, your online security is in your hands—stay vigilant and surf smart!

Recommended VPNs

Privado VPN
ipvanish vpn
Nord VPN
Surfshark VPN
Express VPN
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