You and I both know its pronounced “Why-Fi,” and not “Whiff-ee”. We live in a time where public wifi is incredibly popular, but did you know the many risks associated with logging on to these public hotspots?

You’re out of town visiting a client and have time to kill before your next meeting while at the local coffee shop. You log in to your inbox and all of a sudden your computer crashes. Is it just because you have an old computer, or is it the “trusted public wifi connection”. Cybercriminals like to take advantage of even the tiniest of openings, and within seconds all of your hard work disappears into thin air.

“Think about the cost of being connected all the time. Nothing is free,” David Lee, a product manager for Norton, told CNBC. “The biggest threat is your data, traffic, and identity could be completely exposed.

Protecting yourself is important and being aware of your surroundings is critical in today’s busy digital world. Here are some easy tips to keep you and your team safe from the dangers of public wifi.

Never Gonna Give It Up (Your Private Information That Is)

It’s a no-brainer to keep your private information just that, private. At a coffee shop that requires your email address or phone number to log on. Stop what you’re typing and just don’t do it.

If the using the internet is a necessity, use a fake email address like [email protected] Spamming attacks are most likely to come via email. Don’t make a cybercriminals job easier by giving your real email.

According to the 2018 Internet Security Trend Report, 54.6% of all emails are determined to be spam. This means that by entering your email address, you’re just inviting more spam into your inbox.

Trust is a Must

If I’m sincere, there is no such thing as a “100% safe” public network. There are places such as Starbucks that have a higher trust level than the neighborhood coffee shop. Even though there is a higher trust, it does not mean that there is full trust.

You may trust Starbucks internet more, but that doesn’t mean a hacker is not waiting to attack you the minute you connect to that network. Whoever is controlling or monitoring the network router is an unknown. Often, cybercriminals create false networks that mimic real ones. These malicious networks have pop-ups to trick users into downloading malware. Even if you visit an encrypted site, you may not be protected.

Websites come in two forms; HTTP and HTTPS. HTTP sites are unencrypted and more times than not are dangerous. Those who use Google Chrome are at a slight advantage because the Chrome browser now alerts users that are headed to unencrypted sites. HTTP sites are dangerous, to begin with, but they become even more dangerous when you use them on public wifi. If you see this warning while connected to public wifi, stop what you’re doing immediately and get off that site!

Keep your Personal Mail Email Exactly That, Personal

This may seem like another basic tip, but it’s one that I must repeat. Don’t ever check your personal email while connected to public wifi. Doing so can, essentially rolls out a red carpet to cybercriminals who are trying to gain access to your account. In tune with not checking your email, you should NEVER EVER check you online baking information while on public wifi. If you do, be prepared to receive an email about your newly compromised bank account.

VPN is Best

If using public wifi is a must for you, your smartest, and safest bet is to use a VPN (virtual private network) when it comes to browsing on public wifi. A VPN works to protect your data from external parties via an encrypted password. There are free VPN options available, but it is best that you purchase one.

Have that VPN downloaded? Connecting is simple. Go to the website specified and set up the required passwords and what not. Once enabled, you can use public wifi and feel protected from cybercriminals.

Think a VPN is too complicated? Then there’s one way to ensure you’ve protected your computer, don’t use public wifi.

Just Don’t Use It

We live in a time where if you have a smartphone, you have your own wifi hotspot. If you have a data plan that can support it, I always recommend using that over public wifi. It may not always be the cheapest option, but you can guarantee you are safe. Plus with unlimited plans becoming prevalent again, high data usage concerns are becoming a thing of the past.

Still think that it’s too much effort to be safe on public wifi? Like I said earlier, the only way to protect your computer is not to go online. But with all the internet has to offer, I’m sure you’ll choose to use these tips instead.