How to Protect Yourself on Public Wi-Fi with a VPN

Public Wi-Fi is great for saving your mobile data and keeping you connected wherever you are, but the big question is, is it secure? The short answer is: no, not necessarily. 

Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks poses several risks to you and your device. There are ways to mitigate most of them so you can use it Wi-Fi safely. Read on for a recap of the common risks associated with using public Wi-Fi hotspots, and how to use a VPN to secure your connection and protect your privacy on any network.

Quick Guide – Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi Networks 

Connecting to public Wi-Fi safely is as easy as one, two, three:

  1. Download and install CyberGhost VPN on your device.
  2. Connect to a VPN server to mask your IP address.
  3. Connect to any Wi-Fi network and browse or transact online securely and privately!

Is Public Wi-Fi Safe?

You may wonder why public Wi-Fi should be any riskier than the Wi-Fi at home or work. It’s a good question, and it all comes down to the security in place. By definition, open Wi-Fi hotspots must be relatively easy to access, so the security is often lax. This makes it open season for shady characters hunting for information like your passwords and credit card details – unfortunately for you, free Wi-Fi could end up costing a lot.

The problem is public Wi-Fi networks are usually unencrypted, so any data you send or receive is visible to others on the same network. Cybercriminals lurking on these free networks can exploit this vulnerability to gain unauthorized access to data such as passwords, emails, and credit card numbers. 

Does this mean you have to steer clear of public Wi-Fi altogether? Not at all – just remember to keep your safety in mind.

Common Risks of Using Public Wi-Fi

Here’s the lowdown of the threats you might encounter using public Wi-Fi:

    • Malware attacks: Malware consists of harmful programs designed to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to your device. As public Wi-Fi networks are generally unsecured, they can be riddled with malware. If you connect to an infected network, your device could catch a bug or suffer a data leak.
    • Ransomware attacks: Now the world’s top cybersecurity threat, this is a contemporary form of blackmail that can cost you your device, crucial files, or the contents of your bank account. Ransomware attacks involve crooks using encryption or other means to hold your data or device hostage. They then threaten to keep it locked down or destroy it unless you pay. You can fall victim with a single accidental click on a malicious link online. When you use public Wi-Fi, techniques like Man-in-the-Middle or Evil Twin attacks can give bad actors access to your device to infect it with ransomware. 
    • Evil twin attacks: Also known as rogue Wi-Fi networks, this is when a network pops up in your Wi-Fi list, posing as a legitimate network. Cybercriminals set up these networks to trick you into joining so they can monitor your online activities and capture information.
    • Packet sniffing: Your data travels in packets across networks. Anyone can access these packets using simple, readily available software, especially over unsecured networks. Malicious hackers who want your data so they can sell it or use it to commit fraud love the freedom that free Wi-Fi gives them to hoover up your information.
    • Cookie theft: Cookies store information your web browser saves. They help sites remember you, your preferences, and your account details, among other things. That’s why cybercriminals on public Wi-Fi networks may target your cookies. It’s a sneaky way to get the passwords to your accounts. 
    • Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: A Man-in-the-Middle Attack is when a cybercriminal intercepts, steals, or modifies communications between you and the website or service you’re connected to. This allows them to eavesdrop on your online activities and private conversations and steal sensitive information like your passwords and credit card details.

Lock down your data with CyberGhost VPN. One click disguises your traffic with robust encryption, making it unreadable and unmodifiable to attackers. Cut out the uninvited guests and take hold of your digital privacy and security with our risk-free 45-day money-back guarantee!

How Does a VPN Protect You on Public Wi-Fi?

A VPN offers several layers of protection that kick in when you connect to public Wi-Fi. These are due to the three key functions of a VPN: encryption, traffic rerouting, and IP masking:

  1. Encryption

A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, making it incredibly difficult to decipher and rendering it useless to anyone who succeeds in intercepting it. This keeps prying eyes off your data when you’re on public Wi-Fi.

  1. Traffic Rerouting

A VPN routes your encrypted traffic to a VPN server before sending it to its destination server. This prevents others on the network from seeing the websites you’re visiting. That way, they can’t follow you around or fool you with Man-in-the-Middle attacks to capture your login details or other sensitive data. 

  1. IP Masking

IP masking allows you to hide your real IP address and stay anonymous online. When you connect to a VPN server in the location of your choice, it replaces your IP address with its own. This prevents websites and online services from tracking your online activities and location.

Can a VPN Combat All the Dangers of Public Wi-Fi?

A reliable VPN can shield you from most online threats associated with public Wi-Fi, with some exceptions. This table summarizes exactly what a VPN can and can’t protect you from.

Threat/RiskVPN ProtectionLimitations
Eavesdropping✅ Encrypts your traffic to prevent snoops from tracking your data in transit❌ Cannot prevent websites you’ve signed in to from tracking activities
Man-in-the-Middle Attacks✅ Prevent cybercriminals from reading or modifying the data passing through your connection❌ May not detect sophisticated MITM attacks
Evil Twin Attacks✅ Encrypts your connection and online traffic before an evil twin attacker can see or monitor it❌ Cannot prevent you from accidentally falling for fake networks
Cookie Theft✅ Reduces the effectiveness of targeted ads that rely on cookies to reveal clues about you❌ Cannot block websites from setting cookies
Data Harvesting✅ Masks your IP address, making your movements harder.❌ Cannot prevent all forms of data tracking
Exposure to Malware✅ VPNs restrict certain ports that connect malware to their handlers, preventing them from transmitting data or receiving instructions.❌ Cannot directly block malware

What to Look for in a Public Wi-Fi VPN

Not all VPNs are up to the challenges of public Wi-Fi. When choosing a VPN to help you stay safe, be sure it ticks these boxes:

    • Highest possible VPN speeds: Choose a high-speed VPN with servers across the globe if you want to browse, work, and stream without delays on any network, anywhere. 
    • Wide compatibility: You’ll want a VPN compatible with all your devices, or at least one that supports the four major platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
    • No-logs policy: Make sure the VPN you choose has a strict no-logs policy to protect your online activities and privacy. 
    • Additional security: Consider VPNs that offer additional security features like an automatic kill switch, IPv6 leak protection, and split tunneling. An automatic kill switch is your fail-safe, blocking internet traffic to and from your device when the VPN connection is lost. This prevents unencrypted data from being transmitted and potentially leaking sensitive information. Split tunneling lets you route some of your internet traffic through the VPN while keeping other traffic on your local network. 
    • Ease of use: Choose a VPN with an intuitive interface and guides to help with installation and configuration. Also, look for responsive customer support channels like live chat. 
    • Encryption protocols: These are a set of rules that control how your data is transmitted between your device and the VPN server. They keep your data private and make sure it’s transmitted securely over the internet by encrypting and encapsulating it in a secure tunnel. We recommend you look for a VPN with strong encryption protocols such as OpenVPN, WireGuard, or IPsec. These protocols offer the best security and privacy protection.
    • Smart Rules: If you use your device in multiple locations or have multiple Wi-Fi networks at home, you can set up Smart Rules for each one determining if and when the VPN should connect. Whenever you connect to one of these Wi-Fi networks, your VPN will automatically remember your preferences. This keeps your connection secure at all times, especially when using unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.

The best way to stay safe on public Wi-Fi is to get CyberGhost VPN

    • ✅ Lightning-fast speeds and access to servers in 100 countries
    • ✅ No-logs policy that’s been independently audited by Deloitte
    • ✅ RAM-only servers for data security
    • ✅ Automatic kill switch protects against Wi-Fi interruptions to ensure continuous data protection

Other Ways to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

In addition to using a good VPN, here are some other measures you can take to stay safe on public Wi-Fi:

    • Disable automatic Wi-Fi connections: Turn off the automatic Wi-Fi connection setting to prevent your device from connecting to unknown or unsecured Wi-Fi networks without your knowledge.
    • Use only HTTPS websites: Whenever possible, stick to websites with HTTPS encryption. This ensures your data is encrypted during transmission. Look for a lock icon and https:// before your URL in the address bar.
    • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): This doubles your security by requiring a second verification step, such as a unique code sent to your mobile device.
    • Update your devices: Keep your devices and apps updated with the latest security patches and updates. This removes any vulnerabilities cybercriminals may try to exploit.
    • Use a firewall: Enable the built-in firewall on your device or install a reputable firewall application. Firewalls monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic, blocking any suspicious activity.
    • Avoid sensitive transactions on public Wi-Fi: Don’t log into accounts containing financial or personally identifiable information unless absolutely necessary.

Prevention is better than a cure! Follow these tips, and you should be immune to most known risks and free to use public Wi-Fi safely whenever needed.

Can a Public Wi-Fi Provider See Your Browsing History?

Yes, your Wi-Fi provider can see your browsing history through their router logs. Public Wi-Fi owners might even deliberately record your information to sell to advertisers.

Even if you use private browsing or incognito mode, the public Wi-Fi provider can still see the websites you visit and the data you transmit over their network. Incognito only prevents your browser from storing local data. If the connection between your device and the public Wi-Fi network is not encrypted, it’s vulnerable to interception and monitoring.

Can Public Wi-Fi Block My VPN?

Most public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t sophisticated enough to block VPNs, but some may. This is largely done to conserve bandwidth, as VPNs can use more data than regular browsing, or to comply with local laws and regulations. VPNs can be blocked by implementing firewall rules or using deep packet inspection techniques. 

Reputable VPN providers continuously update their IP addresses and protocols to bypass such restrictions. That said, if you find a public Wi-Fi network has blocked your VPN, try switching to a different VPN protocol like OpenVPN, as it’s less likely to be blocked than other protocols. Another option is to use a VPN with stealth or obfuscated servers. These VPNs disguise your VPN traffic as regular HTTPS traffic, making it harder for networks to detect and block.

A Last Word on Public Wi-Fi VPNs

Public Wi-Fi networks may be convenient and often free, but the trade-off is a range of potential security risks. That’s not to say you can never jump on free Wi-Fi again. You just have to understand the risks and take the necessary precautions. 

CyberGhost offers a comprehensive and easy-to-use VPN to secure your online activities. With features like Wi-Fi protection, Smart Rules, and manual OpenVPN setup, CyberGhost ensures that your data is encrypted and protected from potential cyber threats on public Wi-Fi. 


Can you use a VPN on Wi-Fi?

Absolutely! Using a VPN on Wi-Fi, especially public networks, is highly recommended for your privacy and security. A VPN encrypts your online activity, making it unreadable to potential snoopers and ensuring your personal information remains confidential. 

How do I get a public Wi-Fi VPN?

It’s simple! Choose a reputable VPN provider, sign up, download the app, and connect to a server. Now, you can surf the web securely, even on public Wi-Fi. CyberGhost VPN offers easy-to-use features for seamless protection against the common dangers lurking on public Wi-Fi.

Should I use a VPN on my own Wi-Fi?

It’s a good idea. Cyber threats can hit your home or private network at any time. A VPN adds a valuable layer of security to protect you against common cyber threats. It also enhances your privacy, encrypting your data and making it unreadable to potential snoopers, including your ISP.

Can a Wi-Fi owner see through my VPN?

No, the Wi-Fi owner cannot see through your VPN. When you connect to a VPN, unbreakable encryption ensures your data remains indecipherable, even if it ever falls into the wrong hands. It’s also routed through a secure VPN server, so your Wi-Fi owner can not see the final destination of your traffic.

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