How Does A VPN Protect You On Public Wi-Fi?

How Does A VPN Protect You On Public Wi-Fi?



The vitality of using a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi is increasing exponentially. However, the general masses are not willing to understand its value risking their private lives at the hands of cybersecurity attacks. A study conduct by Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council showed that almost 79 percent of people who use public Wi-Fi know full well about the safety concerns and only 27 percent indicated about using VPN to protect themselves on public Wi-Fi.

Such stats make it clear that most people are still not aware of the effectiveness and importance of VPNs. Thus, in this article, we plan to share information that will allow young minds to understand the subject matter.

What is public Wi-Fi?

Since the development of wireless connectivity networks, we have all been enjoying a healthy, convenient life with the internet. Wi-Fi connections work when a wireless adapter configures a network and creates a hotspot. All users within the range of this hotspot can enjoy an internet connection. This is the same model of wireless connections that we use at home and is called a closed network.

However, most public places share Wi-Fi networks openly and these public Wi-Fi connections are usually not secure and pose a handful of security threats to all those using it.

It is not very difficult to locate public wifi hotspots and some of the common spaces with public wifi connections are:

  • Airports and aircrafts
  • Hotels and motels
  • Restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, and bars
  • Public parks
  • Shopping malls
  • Tourism locations

We understand that certain times require internet usage more than anything and using public Wi-Fi comes off as the only option. In such times, it is convenient to connect with a public Wi-Fi that you know is secure. Some ISPs offer access to hotspots throughout the country such as Spectrum. If you subscribe to Spectrum deals, you can get free access to millions of hotspots nationwide making it easy for you to use the internet while being secure as well.

Why are public Wi-Fi networks insecure?

Any network that does not require login credentials can be deemed as an insecure wifi network. Such open networks include unencrypted connected too, which can pose a great threat to all users. Furthermore, open or public networks make it easy for cybercriminals to steal confidential information of individuals like credit card info or social security number. Much of your information is at risk but the most common targets of cybercriminals are:

  • Your geo-location
  • Your cache, cookies, and history
  • Your personal chats, messages, and emails
  • All your files including photos and videos
  • Your confidential information like passwords and login credentials

There are some common ways by which cybercriminals try to access your info using public Wi-Fi:

MITM or Man-in-the-middle attacks are common on public wifi networks. A cybercriminal blocks the correspondence between two individuals while adding themselves in the middle and then accessing personal information without the two main involved parties’ knowledge. 

Cybercriminals can insert malignant software like malware into your system when you access insecure public wifi. These malware work as an access point for cybercriminals and allow them to exploit every part of your device – files, images, recordings, even your mic can be under their influence.

Some fake public Wi-Fi networks are set up by hackers to trick innocent internet users and hacking your device.


VPNs work by associating your mobile device, PC, or tablet to a server, so you can access the internet using the internet connection of the server. This way, the public wifi network will only be used to connect you to the server instead of to any of the apps or sites you access.

A VPN awards you access to an unknown, private, network that is supremely safe when dealing with confidential data. A VPN also uses encryption to disorder your information making it incomprehensible when it is sent over to a public wifi network.

If not for a VPN service, an internet provider can access your browsing history, caches, and cookies (which means your passwords for the websites you visit, as well). This is on account that most of the web activity is based upon a local IP address. But when a VPN comes into play, you can pipe your network traffic yourself through a private server. As such, your location, online activity, and data remain private.

You can download any VPN service of your choice, be it free or paid. Just make sure that it features the following aspects:

  • A large number of network servers
  • Strong encryption and firewall policy
  • Does not keep any sort of logs

Is it safe to use public wifi with a VPN?

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) both recommend using VPNs when using public wifi. The first thing when connecting to public wifi should always be a VPN. However, after that, you should open a browser, known as the ‘captive portal.’ This will additionally help you with the cybersecurity risks.

Another point is that there is a brief vulnerable time between connecting to public wifi and enabling VPN service, however, it is short-lived and we can only hope that your device remains secure during these few seconds.

Some other ways to increase privacy are:

  • Switch off all the sharing settings
  • Enable firewall on your device
  • As a thumb rule, make sure to always use HTTPS for the websites you visit
  • Use 2FA for your login credentials
  • Always keep your devices updated as updates generally have some security features

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