Does VPN Protect You On Public Wi-Fi?

Public Wi-Fi may seem tempting to most of us, as we can find high-speed internet and it will be free in most cases, but this leaves us with an important question? Is public Wi-Fi safe and secure, and if the answer is “no”, does VPN make it secure as we hear it does?

We probably need to know more about Wi-Fi and VPN before we make a decision and decide if we need more intervention to protect our data when using public Wi-Fi networks.

What is Wi-Fi?

In a simple explanation, Wi-Fi refers to wireless connectivity, and the term Wi-Fi was created in the late 1999s, as it will be easier to remember by anyone and it’s not an abbreviation for any term. The Wi-Fi technology allows your Wi-Fi-enabled devices; laptop, smartphone, PC, and tablet to connect to high-speed internet with no need for a physical or wired connection.

Radio waves, which are basically airwaves, are used to transmit data from your wireless routers to your Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

Is Public Wi-Fi Secure?

Public Wi-Fi is not secure, since Wi-Fi relays on airwaves, Wi-Fi uses radio waves, which are basically airwave, and it will become easier for hackers to target your device and your data because the transmission of data through this technology is not secure, especially true when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network at places like a coffee shops or airports. But if you need to connect to public Wi-Fi, it’s better if you connect to a network that is password-protected or a personal hotspot.

Wi-Fi and VPN

We always hear that we have to use VPN to ensure that our data is secured when we are connected to a public Wi-Fi, but is this true? Before answering this question, let’s know more about VPNs.

What is VPN?

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”, VPN allows devices to connect to a private network over a public network, and it was created to securely connect devices to private internet servers using public WiFi.

How does VPN work?

VPN works by connecting your Wi-Fi enabled device to a server, and it only uses public Wi-Fi to connect your device to this server but VPN helps by hiding your IP address so you won’t be recognized by hackers in the public Wi-Fi domain. By doing this, it grants you access to a private and anonymous network and your data will be encrypted and unreadable when sent via public Wi-Fi network, and this is very attractive if you are handling sensitive information and data. 

We can say that VPN allows you to create your own funnel when connecting to the internet, as you won’t be using your IP address but the private server address provided by the VPN, meaning that your location is masked and your data is private.

So, if you are not using VPN, the internet service provider will be able to access your browsing history, and this is mainly because your activities on the web are associated with your IP address.

The figure below illustrates how does VPN work 

VPN and public wi-fi

Is VPN enough to guarantee privacy?

With the above-mentioned description of how VPN works, it may seem that this technology is flawless and will guarantee you a private connection once you are connected to a public Wi-Fi, but is it really flawless? Well, it is highly recommended to use VPN when using public Wi-Fi.

But you need to know that there is a gap in coverage after you connect to the public WiFi and before you can turn on your VPN. In this short period, you are considered vulnerable to risks associated with public, unsecured networks.

How to Save Your Data When Connected to Public Wi-Fi

There isn’t actually much to do when it comes to securing your data, but there are some precautions that you can do to minimize the risk of being hacked.

  1. Use mobile data: Mobile data is a much safer option, and data will be encrypted if you are using your mobile data, so, even if you prefer the free and high-speed option, which is the public Wi-Fi, it will be better if you use your mobile data when you are using the internet for sensitive data and information that you don’t want them to be hacked.
  2. Ensure websites are secure: You may notice that the website URL starts with HTTPS, if you see HTTPS in the website address, this means that you have a secure connection to the website. 

Note: This means that your data is encrypted on its way to the website, but that doesn’t mean that the website operators are guaranteed, as they will have access to your data and may misuse it.  So make sure that the website has a good reputation.

  1. Use VPN: As mentioned above, VPN provides a secure connection to the internet, it’s true that it’s not flawless, but it is still a better option for you if you need to use public Wi-Fi, especially if you don’t have mobile data, and you want internet with high speed.
  2. Don’t access sensitive information: if you are not using VPN or mobile data, it is better not to access your financial or any other personal information that you don’t want others to find out about.
  3. Log out of your accounts immediately once you finish: If you had to open a certain account while using public Wi-Fi, it is better to immediately turn it off once you finish using it, this will lower the risk of hacking this account by hackers.
  4. Use plug-ins that may help: There are some plug-ins or add-ons to the websites that force the browser to use encryption on popular websites that usually aren’t encrypted.
  5. Use anti-viruses: anti-virus can be handy when using public Wi-Fi, An alert will be shown if any known viruses are loaded onto your device or if there’s any suspicious activity, malicious attack, or malware gets into your system via the shared Wi-Fi network.

One last piece of advice is to turn off the automatic connection to nearby Wi-Fi networks, this way you can choose to connect and when not to, and by this, you decrease the chances of being hacked. 

To sum up, we can say that the best way to ensure that data is safe while using the internet is to use mobile data.

But, we can’t always guarantee to have mobile data to have a secure connection, maybe in our countries, we can have data plans, or we can even wait until we reach our home to use our home private Wi-Fi network. But in other cases, it may be hard for us to purchase data plans or have access to Wi-Fi that is secured with a password, like at the airports and while traveling. and this brings us to our next question. How can we ensure a private internet connection at the airport while traveling? 

How To Have A Secure Internet Connection At The Airport?

In fact, many airports around the world provide free Wi-Fi for a certain number of hours, but this is not secure, and this is really a sensitive issue, especially if you are using your visa card information at the airport or if you are accessing your bank account or any other sensitive information. So, what can we do in this case?

as mentioned above, mobile data is a great option for internet safety, as it ensures that your data are encrypted and can’t be hacked while using the internet, but how can we use mobile data at the airport? here we come with the great news.

Numero eSIM app provides mobile data plans for +150 countries around the world, and these data are provided in local and regional packages, these data plans can be purchased before the travel date and activated once the traveler reaches the new destination. The traveler can use the data immediately after the activation to access the internet and be sure that the data is encrypted and safe.

This will not only provide secure access to the internet, but the traveler won’t have to walk through to find the Wi-Fi and how to connect to it.

Note: Numero eSIM mobile data plans are only valid for mobiles and eSIM-supported mobiles, in particular, so make sure that your device is eSIM supported before purchasing data plans from Numero.

To know more about how Numero eSIM data make traveling easier, read this blog post, and this tutorial to find out about how to purchase and activate data from Numero.

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