How to protect your Windows 10 device on public Wi-Fi network

By: Milan Stanojevic
5 minute read

Public Wi-Fi networks, like the ones in local coffee shops, are great; they are usually free and allow you to surf the web on your Windows 10 device while having your favorite drink. Although free Wi-Fi is great, it’s not always safe, and today we’re going to show you how to stay protected while using a public Wi-Fi.

Sometimes there might be malicious users on the same public Wi-Fi network that you’re currently using. Malicious users can be extremely dangerous because in most cases they are trying to steal your personal data. Most wireless routers have some sort of firewall, but that’s not enough to protect you from other malicious users, so here are a few tips that you can use in order to protect yourself while using a public wireless network.

Protect your PC on a public Wi-Fi Network

Tip 1 – Turn off sharing and network discovery

When using your local or work network, you usually turn on file sharing in order to share files more easily with your coworkers, and even though file sharing is extremely useful, it might also be a major security risk in unknown or public networks. In order to protect yourself and your data it’s advised that you turn off file and printer sharing as well as network discovery. To do that on Windows 10, do the following:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and type network. Select Network and Sharing Center from the list of results.
    network-and-sharing-center
  2. When Network and Sharing Center opens, click on Change advanced sharing settings.
    advanced-sharing
  3. Find your current network profile. If you’re using a public network, you should always select Guest or Public profile.
  4. In Network discovery section choose Turn off network discovery and in File and printer sharing section select Turn off file and printer sharing.
    file-sharing-off
  5. Click Save changes.

By turning off network discovery other computers, devices and users won’t be able to see you on the current network and you’ll stay hidden from any malicious users. Just remember to set network profile to Guest or Public if you’re joining a new public Wi-Fi network.

Tip 2 – Make sure your firewall is enabled

Every Windows 10 comes with built-in Windows Firewall, so if you’re not using a third-party firewall software, make sure that your Windows Firewall is active. By using a firewall, you can regulate the incoming and outcoming network traffic thus keeping your computer safe from attackers. To check if Windows Firewall is running, follow these simple steps:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and type firewall. Choose Windows Firewall from the list.
    firewall
  2. Choose Turn Windows Firewall on or off on the left side.
    turn-firewall-on-or-off
  3. Make sure Turn on Windows Firewall is selected in both Private network settings and in Public network settings section.
    turn-on-windows-firewall
  4. Click OK to save changes.

If you have a third-party firewall installed, Windows Firewall will turn itself off automatically, and there’s no need to enable it.

Tip 3 – Make sure you are using secure connection

When you’re searching for something online, entering your login information or sending a Facebook message to your friends, you’re sending data that malicious users on the same network can intercept. In order to protect your sensitive information, such as your login information for example, you’ll have to use a secure connection.

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Many websites already use secure connection that protects your data, and if you want to know if a certain website is secure, just check its address. Websites that use unsecured connection usually have http:// before their name, for example: http://www.unsecurewebsite.com. If a website has https:// preceding its name, for example https://www.google.com, it means that it’s using a secure connection that makes it harder for malicious users to intercept your data.

Keep in mind that not all websites support secure connections, but you can somewhat force a website to use secure connection by changing http:// to https:// in your browser address bar and pressing Enter. Bear in mind that this won’t work on all websites, but it might work on a few of them.

If you don’t want to do this manually, you can always use a browser addon called HTTPS Everywhere. This little addon automatically chooses safe connection on many popular websites, thus keeping your data safe.

Tip 4 – Consider using a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual private network, and while using a VPN all your traffic will go through a another network thus giving you additional layer of security. There are many VPN network services available, and some of them are free but with certain limitations, while other require a monthly fee.

Tip 5 – Turn off Wi-Fi if you’re not actively using it

In order to protect your computer on a public Wi-Fi network, it’s always good to disable Wi-Fi if you’re not using it. Every time you join a Wi-Fi network there’s a potential risk, so if you’re sitting in a coffee shop and not using Wi-Fi, there’s no need to keep it turned on on your Windows 10 device.

Tip 6 – Don’t automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks

Not every Wi-Fi network is safe, and sometimes you might connect to an unsafe, or even malicious Wi-Fi network automatically. In order to prevent that, make sure to turn off the option to automatically connect to available Wi-Fi network. Instead, choose manually the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to.

Tip 7 – Use two-factor authentication

Even if you login information gets stolen by a malicious user, it’s always good to use two-step verification in order to protect yourself. With two-step verification you’ll have to enter a code that is sent to your cellphone before you can log in to a certain website. This method of authentication is good because even if someone steals your login information, they won’t be able to access your account without the code that is being sent to your cellphone.

Tip 8 – Protect your passwords

In order to protect your personal information, it’s always good to use a strong password, however, if you use different passwords for different websites, which you should, keeping track of these passwords can become a problem. This is why many users suggest using a password manager. We covered top 5 Windows 10 password managers, so feel free to check them out.

Tip 9 – Keep your antivirus up to date

Malicious users will often try to infect your computer with a virus or a malware, therefore it’s crucial that you keep your antivirus software up to date. If you’re looking for more information regarding antivirus software, feel free to have a look at our list of best antivirus programs for Windows 10.

These are just some of the most common tips on how to protect your PC on a public Wi-Fi network, and we hope that you found them helpful. Remember, don’t enter any sensitive data, such as your bank account information or credit card number while being on a public network. Almost everybody can access a public network, and some users might have malicious intents, so try to stay safe.

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