The best way to protect yourself while using a public WiFi network? To quote Consumer Reports, the best way to “protect all of your communications, even on open networks [is] by first installing a personal virtual private network app on your phone or computer.”
We couldn’t agree more!
The largest product-testing organization and well-known magazine also released some alarming statistics this month as part of a survey of over 3,000 adults. For example, the magazine says 62% of us do absolutely nothing to protect our privacy.
This statistic, in light of the recent data breaches at Target and via the Heartbleed bug, is pretty astounding. Interestingly enough, the same poll found that roughly the same percentage of users (58%) are concerned about how the NSA is spying on Americans.
Perhaps we are just resigned to the fact that the government will spy on us no matter what, since most of us take no steps to try to protect our privacy.
The Privacy Report
The Consumer Reports’ privacy report contained some other interesting information:
- 29% of computers were infected by malware in 2013.
- 3.1 million people were projected to have their mobile phones stolen in 2013, which is almost double the number of mobile phone thefts in 2012.
- 1 in 7 were notified that their personal data had been breached, an increase of 56% from 2012.
- In 2013, 11.2 million people fell for phishing scams, in which users entered private login information on a fake website which stole their credentials.
Where You Are At Risk
Consumer Reports outlined what you can do to protect yourself:
- In the cloud: Most cloud-based storage solutions do not encrypt your data, so if a hacker breaches the cloud security, your data can be stolen. So encrypt anything you upload to the cloud.
- On social media: In the wrong hands, much of what we post about our personal lives could allow criminals to know when we are away on vacation and who our friends are. As a rule, limit what you post and set the highest security levels on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and review your friend list to make sure you know everyone on it.
- On your computer: Malware attacks can come from anywhere, so be cautious when clicking on links or opening email attachments unless you are absolutely sure they are safe. Keep your antivirus and firewall software up to date.
- On your mobile phone: Malware can infect your mobile phone as well, and many apps can look at your location information and even your contact information. Limit the number of apps you use and only install apps from reputable stores.
- Coffee shops (or any place with public WiFi): If you log onto a public WiFi network and log into your banking or social media sites, anyone who happens to be “sniffing” the network (easily done with simple, free software and a computer), can steal this login information and access your accounts.
So remember all of those points listed above — and especially the magazine’s overall advice to use a personal VPN like PRIVATE WiFi to secure your online communications!