By Mimo Yuen, ICS 184 student

Are you the kind of person who, after arriving at a hotel or Airbnb, immediately tries to figure out how to get onto the Wi-Fi? Don’t be that guy.

With the increased presence online, as schools and organizations from all over the world transform to work remotely, it is imperative that your Internet connection is secure.

To help you with this, consider the following simple tips:

  1. Avoid Public Networks
    You might be tempted when you see free Wi-Fi at airports, restaurants, malls, and hotels, but you should never connect to public networks. They are inherently unsecure. You don’t know who else is connected at the same time. If another user’s device is infected with malware, that malware may spread to your device through the network. Furthermore, a public network is a real treat for hackers. They can distribute malware through the connection, eavesdrop on you, and intercept all of your data. You may not even be connected to the Wi-Fi provided by the organization but rather a rogue network set up by an attacker, waiting for you to take the bait.
  2. Use a VPN
    A virtual private network (VPN) offers a secure connection by using a proxy server that navigates the Internet on your behalf. It can hide your IP address and protect your online activity. Most importantly, it encrypts your data, so if it does get intercepted, there is less of a chance that it will be compromised. It essentially lets you go online anonymously. If you absolutely must use a public network, use a VPN.
  3. Enable a Firewall
    A firewall acts as a shield that blocks out unwanted internet traffic. It looks at incoming data packets to check whether they are safe by using a set of rules and policies. Some firewalls also monitor outgoing data in order to prevent your sensitive information from being sent to unauthorized entities. Nowadays, operating systems usually have built-in firewalls, such as Windows Defender or macOS’s Firewall, but you need to ensure that it is enabled. Don’t forget that this tip, along with those above, applies to all devices that access the Internet, not just computers.
  4. Change the Default Settings of Your Home Networking Devices
    While it may come as second nature to worry about security when it comes to unfamiliar networks, you may not be as cautious when it comes to your network connection at home. The most basic security measure you can take is modifying the default settings of your router or modem. For example, change the factory password and the default SSID (the name used to identify your wireless network). You can also turn off the SSID broadcast, so that your network isn’t listed as available for devices. These steps can protect your network from intrusions, thus securing your connection further.

The Internet comes with risks, and as a user, you are susceptible to those risks. Wouldn’t you want to take five minutes doing these things to prevent an attack, rather than what feels like five lifetimes recovering from one? There are so many other things that you CAN and SHOULD do to improve your cybersecurity. Today, I encourage you to start by asking yourself, “Is my connection secure?”