Consumer Reports: Protecting yourself on public Wi-Fi

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More places are starting to provide public Wi-Fi. That puts your phones, laptops and tablets at a security risk. (WLS)

More places are starting to provide public Wi-Fi. That puts your phones, laptops and tablets at a security risk.

Consumer reports reveals simple fixes to keep your information safe.

In today's mobile universe, working from home often means a home away from home - using public Wi-Fi. But how safe is it?

"Public Wi-Fi carries some risks. But there are a few things you can do to keep your data safer," said Jerry Beilinson, Consumer Reports.

It sounds basic, but start by making sure your firewall is turned on. It's the first line of defense against viruses and malware.

When you're on public WiFi, the biggest worry is probably hackers.

Dean Gallea, a Consumer Reports security expert, created a fake Wi-Fi hot spot, allowing him to observe and capture someone else's internet activity.

"I don't think people are aware how easy it is to do what I did," Gallea said.

But several tweaks can leave you better protected on public Wi-Fi.

Including turning off settings like "network discovery" and "file sharing." That will make it more difficult for people near you to see your data.

An "open" Wi-Fi hotspot makes you particularly vulnerable, because any hacker can join it without a password.

You can also add a layer of protection to public Wi-Fi by using a virtual private network, or VPN.

"A lot of people are familiar with VPN's from their work, because many companies require their employees to have a VPN if they're logging on from home or when they're traveling. People don't really know you can get a VPN yourself for a few bucks a month and it adds a lot of security to their own computing," Beilinson said

Consumer Reports said every adjustment can make a difference.

Another important step you can take to protect yourself, is to set up automatic updates on your devices and always install them when they're offered to you.

Keeping devices like phones, laptops, and routers updated ensures that they are armed with the latest protections.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2017. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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