Beware the Pitfalls of Public WiFi

Public Wi-Fi’s may seem harmless, as users connect to them every day in coffee shops, airports, bars and other places. But most users do not realize the extent to which their personal information, passwords, logins and other sensitive data are left exposed when connecting to an unsafe public WiFi network. While not all such connections are dangerous, you can never be confident that your information is secure when you use one. Thus, for example, as tempting as it might be, you should not access your financial accounts or make credit card purchases over public WiFi. That is, unless you use a VPN (virtual private network).

VPN (virtual private network) service providers can create secure connections between the Internet and the Internet user device, whether the user is connected at home, the office or using Public WiFi. Because Internet traffic that is encrypted is difficult to crack, a VPN can make using public WiFi considerably safer.

Note that I said that a VPN “can” create a secure connection and “can” make using public WiFi safer. That is because not all do. Many use outdated technology that can be readily hacked. Thus, a 2015 study reported that 11 of 14 commercial VPNs were vulnerable to hacking.1

So what is one to do? If you try to research VPN providers you soon run into a salad of acronyms that are likely only understood by those who already know what to do about Internet security. For example, you would learn that a secure VPN must protect IPv6, as well as IPv4 and that “all desktop VPN clients tested, except for Private Internet Access, Mullvad and VyprVPN, leak the entirety of IPv6 traffic.”2 See what I mean?

I failed at trying to understand the technology. But I found an easy answer in a current article in PC Magazine.3 This article rated several VPN providers favorably. I’m giving one a try and will let you now how it goes next time.


1 V.C. Perta, M.V. Barbera, G. Tyson, H. Haddadi, and A. Mei, A Glance through the VPN Looking Glass: IPv6 Leakage and DNS Hijacking in Commercial VPN clients, Proc. Privacy Enhancing Tech., 2015 (1): 77–91 (available online at
2 Id. at 81.
3 The Best VPN Services of 2017, PC Magazine (Nov. 27, 2017) (available online at,2817,2403388,00.asp).