Data security, cybercrime, hacking events… it feels like news headlines come across our screens every day to warn us of yet another threat to our privacy and security. But instead of falling victim to an alarming statistic—that the majority of Americans believe data breaches and identity theft are unavoidable—there are things you can do to safeguard your information as much as possible. While most consumer-level tools won’t completely block a highly-skilled hacker whose intent on getting your information, you can take some extra measures to help a data thief decide you’re more trouble than you’re worth.
Some good behaviors include watching your accounts carefully, making sure you have strong, unique passwords in place, and knowing where your information ends up. These kinds of good habits you employ to protect your identifying information are year-round, lifelong measures. But there are also some calendar-specific steps you need to take. Summertime is a time when you may find yourself in or by the water more than usual.
Whether it is the beach, the pool or the old school sprinkler, hot days call for a cool down. However, while these activities may cool you down, they may also open you up to putting your personal information and the other information on your devices, in a public, and not so secure space. It could be a public WiFi hotspot at your apartment complexes pool, a city offered service at the beach or a hotel’s Internet service, but when you connect to go online, you are connecting with more than just WiFi. Everyone who is on that hotspot can have access to whatever information you have on your device. You have no way of knowing who else is behind that connection, so it is important that you protect yourself while connecting.
Hackers may even set up WiFi hotspots at popular tourist destinations simply for the purpose of stealing your personal information. Of course, you want to get those beach pictures up on Instagram as soon as possible, or maybe you need to check a few work emails while lounging poolside. A free WiFi connection makes it all the more convenient and most people will go ahead and take advantage. However, hackers prey on this desire for convenience and the need to always be connected and that WiFi hotspot titled “State Beach 3” may not be a public services and instead set up by a hacker to capture all of the information beachgoers send through this all too convenient connection.
One great way around this problem is to connect through a VPN, or virtual private network. A VPN acts like a tunnel to getting on the internet. No one can see you inside your tunnel, and they’re not really sure where your tunnel is. While everyone else connects “above ground” where hackers can pick them off for data mining, all of your internet activity is happening “underground.” Hackers don’t even know you’re in your tunnel, let alone what you’re doing or what accounts you’re accessing.
So as you enjoy the summer this year, be sure that you are protecting yourself when accessing unsecure WiFi with a VPN.