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How Safe Is Public Wi-Fi? Useful Security Tips For Online Banking

  • Home-buying
  • December 2022
  • Premier America

The convenience of connecting to a public Wi-Fi connection in seconds while you’re out and about can’t be beat, but it’s always wise to think twice before connecting. Oftentimes, these ‘free’ public internet connections are not as secured as you might think.

Public Wi-Fi Security Risks

Whether browsing on public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, library, or airport, you’re sharing that connection with others. There’s a chance that a hacker may intercept your information that’s transmitted. This means not only the work or personal email you sent, but your photos, calendar, and other private information. Some applications on your device “communicate” discreetly in the background when connected to public Wi-Fi. They may check for new messages or updates, causing them to send and receive unencryptedpersonal information that could be intercepted by a hacker on that same network.

Imposter Wi-Fi networks pose added threats. If you mistakenly join a clone network, a hacker may gain access and start monitoring all your online banking, shopping and other activities while gathering login credentials.

Using a secure private connection to browse the internet, log in to online banking, and share on social is the safer choice. 

  • Use your smartphone’s cellular connection or turn your phone into a hotspot to connect your tablet or laptop to a more direct, encrypted transmission. 
  • When visiting friends or relatives, use their password-protected Wi-Fi network if you can’t get a cellphone signal. 

Safety Tips When using Public Wi-Fi

If you must use public Wi-Fi for online banking, employ these security tips to minimize your exposure:

  • Update your device with the latest operating system security releases and malware scanning before you leave home. 
  • If using a web browser, check the address bar for the padlock icon (top left of your screen), indicating data encryption is secured. Heed browser insecurity warnings, including website redirections. Also, never save your online banking password in your browser or a public computer. 
  • Better yet, skip the web browser and use your official online banking app instead. Without the browser “middleman,” the data transmission is more direct, and there’s less chance of navigating to a fake banking site. Premier America’s free Mobile App is available to download in the Apple Store or Google Play
  • If using public Wi-Fi often, consider getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN)2. 
  • Log out when finished. Don’t assume that closing the app or browser window will end your online banking session. 
  • Always have two-factor authenticationset up on your online banking account for an extra layer of protection in case an online fraudster obtains your login credentials. 
  • Change your password often to help safeguard your account. 

It’s important to know the best practices for browsing the internet on-the-go. Connecting to Wi-Fi always poses some risk, so monitor your online banking account regularly to spot and report any suspicious activity.  
For more on online security tips, please visit our Security Center.

1Encryption: The process of encoding a message so that it can be read only by the sender and the intended recipient.

2Virtual Private Network (VPN): a system or technology that uses a public network, usually the internet, to transmit encrypted data between a private network and a remote authorized user.

3Two-Factor Authentication: a security system that requires two distinct forms of identification in order to access something.