Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi: Free Online Security Tools for Students

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Stay safe on public Wi-fi in college and university - SpeedyPassword

It’s that most wonderful time of the year… well, you know what we mean. It’s time to head back to school, back to reality and back to the e-books. Especially for all of you heading back to college or university, it means going back to spending a lot of time in a lot of public places where you can access free Wi-Fi. (Extra credit if they are places where you can get free food!)

We get it: You’re on a budget, you’ve got deadlines and you have important work to do online. On any given day, you’re probably accessing cloud-based online classrooms, using online accounts for paying your tuition and registering for classes, and virtually ordering books from the library. If you’re lucky enough to get some downtime, you might cram in a little online shopping or Netflix… or, on that thought, maybe a quick email to Mom asking for an e-transfer to help pay for your meal card?

When free Wi-Fi… isn’t really free

Free Wi-Fi is awesome, don’t get us wrong. But free means open – and open means there are risks for the private information you access on public networks. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to snoop on usernames, passwords and authentication cookies on any device sharing a network with you. All it takes is one stolen password to throw a huge wrench in your life – especially if can open your bank account, class registration, social security number or even your library card to a nefarious user. Sure, it might not happen to you, but that line of thinking doesn’t prevent you from getting car insurance or overdraft protection on your bank account. Stay protected, and you can stay online without worrying about your privacy.

The good news? You can put together a free security toolkit for staying safe on public networks, and we’ve got your cheat sheet right here:

Back-to-school online security toolkit

1. VPN

By using a Virtual Private Network, you are basically extending a private network across a public one – like the Internet. You benefit from the security and privacy of working on your own personal internet connection, while still keeping the accessibility of using public Wi-Fi. PC Mag has published a list of the best free VPN services for 2015.

2. Antivirus & anti-malware protection

You’ll want to keep an eye on your computer’s health if you’re constantly surfing on public networks. Malicious software comes in all shapes and sizes, and can cause big problems – which you definitely don’t want on a computer handling big school projects. Look for a product that has web surfing protection and email security too. We like Digital Care AntiVirus Complete because it specifically focuses on protecting your internet use. It has a free scan and fix, and then you can choose if you want to add the premium features like Active Protection and Web Defender.

3. Password manager

A password manager safely stores all your username and password information using encryption and cryptographic hashing technologies that stop snoopers and keyloggers from reading the characters you type into online log-in and sign-up forms. Since you only have to remember your Master Password (the manager takes care of the rest), you can assign each account a strong, unique password that hackers can’t break. There are a lot of free options out there if you’re not ready to commit to a paid app.

If you’re using a public computer, you’ll want to be especially careful accessing password-protected online accounts.

Stay safe on public Wi-Fi

Stream movies, read blogs and Snapchat to your heart’s content – ah, we mean, study hard kids – now that you’re protected and ready to rock out on free Wi-Fi all year long!


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