I’ve been using the campus Wi-Fi lately to work on some projects, but I also use it for my own personal web browsing. I know that it’s a public network, so I’m worried about my privacy. How can I protect my browsing habits and my privacy online?
While students often complain about the campus Wi-Fi (it’s certainly not perfect), it’s better than not having any Internet access at all. You’re right to have concerns about your privacy. Because you're using a public network, you’re at a much greater risk of having someone snoop on your browsing habits or get your personal information.
Who’s watching and tracking you?
- Your ISP
- Hackers and cyber criminals
- The government
One simple way to protect your information is to use a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN will allow you to browse the web anonymously by connecting you to the Internet through another server.
Connections though VPNs are encrypted and incredibly difficult for hackers and spammers to get into. Even if they can get to your information, it will be encrypted, so they won’t be able to read it.
There are both free and paid VPN services available. We recommend reading reviews and lists of VPNs from reliable, credible sources to find a service that meets your needs.
You can also use your browser’s private browsing mode (e.g. Google Chrome Incognito) which will give you some protection. It’s not as robust or comprehensive as a VPN, but it’s better than nothing.
There are some anonymous browsers out there, such as DuckDuckGo and TOR. Neither of these browsers allow pop-ups or cookies, and they also use an encrypted and secure method for browsing. You don’t have to worry about your online activity being tracked.
Another thing you want to avoid: using public storage for private information. Google Docs and Dropbox aren’t the ideal places to store password lists unless you can keep them in an encrypted archive. These are public storage solutions, and there’s a chance that hackers can get to your information.
Public storage services are not meant to store your private data.
Make sure that all of your passwords are strong and have a minimum of eight characters with a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
It should go without saying that you want to avoid sharing personal or private information when using your campus Wi-Fi, especially if you’re not using a VPN. If you must use a messenger service while browsing, choose an app that has end-to-end encryption so people can’t read your messages.
Also, don’t forget to log out of your accounts when using public networks (or in general). You may also want to take the time to delete or clear tracking cookies. These contain information about you that can be sold to companies without your consent.
If you have to do banking or make purchases online through the campus Wi-Fi, it’s strongly recommended that you use a VPN to ensure that your information is encrypted and secure.