How to Stay Safe While Using Campus Wi-Fi

Two college students sitting together, one is holding a laptop and one is holding an iPad, shown from shoulders to knees.Campus Wi-Fi can be a godsend when you’re catching up with work (or your latest Netflix addiction) in between lectures. And it can even help you get better grades. Many universities offer free, high-speed internet connections throughout college grounds.

But is a college Wi-Fi connection really all that safe? There are definitely some risks involved in using a public network. Public networks are unsecured, meaning your devices are vulnerable to a malware attack. This could leave you with damaged operating systems or open you up to data theft.

However, if you take the right precautions and use the right tools, it’s easy to stay safe and search the internet using campus Wi-Fi. Here are a few tips for how to protect your online data on the go:

  1. Confirm the Network Name

Some hackers set up fake Wi-Fi networks. When you connect to their network, it’s much easier for them to access your information. They’re likely to use a name for their network which is very similar to the campus Wi-Fi service. Double check the name of the Wi-Fi network before connecting so you know you’re using the legitimate service.

  1. Don’t Connect Automatically

Some laptops and smartphones are programmed to automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi network. It’s important that you disable this feature. That way you get to vet the networks available and only connect when you’re sure it’s genuine.

  1. Create Complex Passwords

Hackers can access your information by cracking your passwords. To create complex, less hackable passwords, use lots of numbers, letters and symbols. Passwords should be at least eight characters long and should be updated regularly.

  1. Turn on Firewall

A firewall is a first defense when it comes to monitoring incoming and outgoing connections. It’s by no means foolproof but you should always have your firewall switched on (most operating systems have this function as standard) when browsing on a public network.

  1. Keep Your Anti-Virus Protection Updated

Anti-virus and anti-spyware software offer another defense and it’s essential to have them in place. Software can alert you as soon as malicious software is detected meaning you can address the problem quickly. It can also prevent malware attacks from happening in the first place.

  1. Use a VPN

A VPN is an excellent way to protect your computer from malicious attack when using public networks. It provides an encrypted connection between your computer and the sites you visit, leaving no weaknesses for a hacker to access. There’s the added benefit of being able to browse country specific sites so you can access your favorite video streaming services from anywhere in the world.

  1. Turn Off Sharing

At home, when you can be fairly sure that your network is secure, it’s fine to share printers, files and even your music library. Using public hotspots, this is not advised. Go to settings and turn off automatic sharing so you can restrict access to your files when using campus Wi-Fi.

  1. Avoid Accessing Sensitive Data

If at all possible, try not to login to your online bank account, make online purchases or view particularly personal information when connected to a public Wi-Fi service. This reduces your chances of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.

  1. Take Care of Your Belongings

Whilst protecting your data should be a big consideration, you shouldn’t forget the actual devices you use to access that data. Whilst packing up all your things to make a bathroom trip may seem like a drag, it’s safer than leaving laptops and smartphones sitting unattended.

Accessing campus Wi-Fi makes life, work and play a lot easier. Just take precautions before connecting so you can be safe while you surf.

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