Does a VPN Protect You on Public Wi-Fi?

Is using a VPN on public Wi-Fi a good idea? The short answer is yes — and without one, your device’s connection is extremely vulnerable to cybercriminals. Public Wi-Fi is one of those beautiful things in life. It’s free and extremely convenient but comes with a hidden cost: while its looser security requirements mean easier access, they also make it easier for cybercriminals to monitor and target anyone on the network. Simply connecting to free internet can be risky. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the risks you face when using public Wi-Fi hotspots. We’ll also explore how to stay safe when connecting to new networks and show you how using a VPN on public Wi-Fi can keep you out of trouble. Let’s go!

How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

  1. Subscribe to CyberGhost VPN.
  2. Install it on your device.
  3. Connect to a VPN server when using public internet.

How Safe Is Public Wi-Fi?

Using public Wi-Fi isn’t safe without a VPN. Cybercriminals could be lurking on free unsecured networks, waiting to carry out attacks on unsuspecting users. Don’t think it’s true? In a recent survey by Forbes, 40% of respondents claimed their information had been compromised after connecting to public hotspots. 

These are some of the consequences you could face if you don’t take precautions before connecting to free Wi-Fi:

    • Credit card information theft
    • Account password leaks
    • Email interception
    • Identity theft

Considering the damage these breaches cause, it’s safe to say caution is the best way forward. How do these things happen though? How do you go from innocently connecting to public Wi-Fi to becoming a victim of identity theft? Let’s take a look.

6 Cyber Threats Lurking on Public Wi-Fi

Here’s an overview of the most common threats you face on public Wi-Fi. 

1. Malware

Malware is malicious software that harms your device, steals your information, and invades your files. Malware can slip onto your computer or mobile and work away undetected without your knowledge. Unless the malware’s noticeably disruptive (most aren’t), you likely won’t notice it until it’s too late. 

2. Evil Twin Attacks

Ah — the sinister evil twin. These popular attacks are also known as Wi-Fi honeypots as they lure you into fake hotspots posing as legitimate networks. It can be easy to get caught in this trap — you can’t always tell which Wi-Fi network you’re looking for based on just the name. 

For example, you could be trying to connect to a Costa Wi-Fi and see something like “Costa-for-guests.” You just never know; it might be legit, it might not. Often the best thing to do in this case is to ask the staff. That said, even if you’re on a legitimate network, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from other types of attacks — far from it.

3. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks (MitM)

MitM attacks intercept online traffic between two parties (like your device and a web server) to extract information like conversations, login credentials, and other personal details. You may not even know your traffic has been intercepted. Cybercriminals might use whatever information they gather to access your accounts or launch targeted phishing attacks. They might also sell your data to other third parties. 

4. Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks involve getting infected with malware that holds your important personal data hostage. They encrypt your important files and won’t provide you with the encryption key unless you make a sizable payment. These vicious, profit-motivated attacks can deprive you of access to years of important files and data. 

How do they happen though? Well, ransomware can end up on your device by clicking malicious links — or by connecting to public Wi-Fi. Cybercriminals typically use MitM or Evil Twin attacks to infect your device and then infect your device with ransomware to lock you out of files or folders. 

Cybercriminals on open networks often target your cookies since they can carry sensitive information like your login details and home address. Malicious actors can use this information to try to access your online accounts.

6. Packet Sniffing

When your data travels through a network, it passes in packets — which are essentially units of data. If you connect to unsecured networks, cybercriminals can easily gather information by snooping through your data packets. The software they use to do it isn’t even highly technical. Even worse, it’s also legal to use and easy to find. 

Public Wi-Fi networks rarely have the resources to protect whoever connects to them. As a general rule, free hotspots tend to prioritize speed over security so they can host more devices. As you can imagine, cybercriminals exploit the lack of security protocols to spy on all the data passing over the network. 

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

While public Wi-Fi networks are rife with threats, you can easily protect yourself with a VPN. Here’s why you should use a VPN on public Wi-Fi. 


A VPN acts like a protective tunnel for your connection. It uses encryption to scramble your data and make it unreadable to anyone who might intercept it. Your data will be encrypted before it leaves your device, so when it travels through the public Wi-Fi router, it won’t be visible to any other people. This is crucial on public networks, where data is often unencrypted and cybercriminals can easily snatch it. 

Encryption protects you against MitM attacks, packet sniffing, and ransomware attacks, and ensures your personal information and passwords stay private — even on unsecured networks. 

Different VPN providers use different levels of encryption, and some are more ironclad than others. CyberGhost VPN uses military-grade encryption and the best VPN protocols for ultimate security.

Kill Switch

Your Wi-Fi connection could be unstable and interrupt the VPN, leaving you temporarily exposed. Unfortunately, it happens. Good VPNs include an automatic Kill Switch feature to temporarily stop your device from sending or receiving data when your connection drops. The Kill Switch only lets your traffic flow again when you’re reconnected to the VPN server — unless you turn it off. This extra feature ensures you’ll never be left wide open to attack on public Wi-Fi networks. 

Bonus Benefit: IP Masking

VPNs mask your IP address by assigning you a new one when you connect to a server, helping you maintain your privacy. Sometimes, you may want to get an IP address located in a different country, like when you’re traveling abroad. Using a VPN to change your IP address while you’re lounging in a hotel room can help you regain access to content libraries and services that are available back home.

CyberGhost has VPN servers in 100+ countries. This means you can change your IP address as often as you want. 

To Summarise: Why Use a VPN on Public Wi-Fi?

Stay safe from malware and cyber attacks on any networkKeep your transactions safe with strong encryption.Send messages and emails without snoops spying on you.
Get unrestricted access to your favorite content from anywhere by changing your IP address.Protect important data while working from coffee shops, web cafés, and workspaces.Avoid censorship while traveling and local network restrictions like at school or work.

Can a Wi-Fi Owner See Your Browsing Activity?

Yes, they can. Anyone with router admin privileges, like a Wi-Fi owner, can see which websites you visit. They have admin access to the Wi-Fi router’s history log and can see browsing information from all the devices connected to the Wi-Fi network.

Unless your Wi-Fi owner is someone you trust, it might unnerve you to know they can just see what you’re doing online. You can hide your activity from your Wi-Fi owner or landlord with a VPN. When you connect to a VPN, your traffic is encrypted before it leaves your device — this keeps it hidden from both the Wi-Fi owner and ISP. 

Is It Safe to Use Public Wi-Fi without a VPN for HTTPS Sites?

Some people think you don’t need a VPN if you only connect to HTTPS websites — but it’s not true. While HTTPS creates a secure connection between your device and the internet, it doesn’t protect you from threats on a Wi-Fi network. 

If you visit HTTPS websites on public Wi-Fi without a VPN, you’re still vulnerable to network-side attacks. If cybercriminals are snooping on your network, they can see what you’re up to — regardless of whether you only visit HTTPS sites. 

How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

Sadly, something as handy as free or public Wi-Fi gets spoiled by criminals trying to exploit it. You can avoid most public Wi-Fi threats by taking just a little extra precaution. Here are our tips to help you keep out of harm’s way when connecting to hotspots. 

1. Use a VPN

To protect yourself against the public Wi-Fi threats we mentioned earlier, always use a VPN when you connect to shared networks. It’s the best thing you can do to mitigate cybersecurity risks. Whether you’re working at your local coffee shop or logging on to your hotel’s network, don’t forget to switch your VPN on.

For true privacy, you’ll want to use a No Logs VPN. Some VPNs (especially free VPNs) log information about what you do while you’re connected. Unless you want everything you do on public Wi-Fi to be recorded and shared, opt for a VPN provider that adheres to a strict No Logs policy. 

CyberGhost VPN employs a strict No Logs policy that’s been independently audited by Deloitte. We guarantee we’ll never log or share your data with anyone. Even if someone comes asking for your data, we can’t share it with them because we simply don’t have it. You can try CyberGhost VPN with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

2. Don’t Leave Your Device Alone

It might sound super obvious, but in reality, people do it all the time. You might go to the same café every day and feel comfortable leaving your stuff unattended for a few minutes while you order a fresh drink or run to the bathroom. To be honest, even that leaves you open to attack. Ask someone you know to watch your stuff for you while you’re away — or just take it with you.

3. Always Lock Your Device

If you do end up leaving your stuff (even if it’s only for a minute!) make sure it’s locked. It only takes a second for someone to install malware on your device, but it takes a long time to recover from the damage it causes. Don’t gamble with your digital security!

4. Avoid Connecting to Evil Twin Networks

Due to the inherently random nature of Wi-Fi names, it can be hard to know if a Wi-Fi network is genuine or a fake hotspot set up by someone nearby. A good way to mitigate your risk is to ask someone who works close by. It might be a barista at a coffee shop or a security guard who would know the correct names of the Wi-Fi networks in the area. 

Is It Worth Using a VPN on Public Wi-Fi?

Yes, it is. Unsecured Wi-Fi has untold vulnerabilities and bad actors exploit them to get at your sensitive data or launch malicious attacks. Whether you’re using your smartphone or laptop to connect, protecting yourself with a VPN is critical if you want to avoid letting attackers potentially intercept your traffic. 

CyberGhost VPN lets you set up a secure connection when you use free Wi-Fi. It uses military-grade encryption to protect your traffic against being spying on or intercepted. You can connect up to seven devices at any time, keeping all your gadgets covered. We even offer a 45-day money-back guarantee


Is it safe to use hotel Wi-Fi with a VPN?

Yes, if you use a VPN to encrypt your connection, it’s safe to use hotel Wi-Fi. Cybercriminals won’t be able to gather or read your data, link your activity back to you, or launch Evil Twin or Man-in-the-Middle attacks. On the flip side, it’s not recommended to use hotel Wi-Fi without connecting to a VPN. You’ll never know who you’re sharing a network with or what their intentions are.

Can a public Wi-Fi provider see your browsing history?

Yes, they can. Any Wi-Fi provider can see your browsing activity when you’re on their network. They will have administrative access to the router and can check usage logs for all the devices on the network in the router’s settings menu. You can use a VPN to prevent public Wi-Fi providers and even your ISP from seeing what you do online. CyberGhost VPN keeps your online activity private and safe from prying eyes.

Can a public Wi-Fi provider block a VPN connection?

Most public Wi-Fi spots aren’t advanced enough to stop VPNs. However, some network admins might use tools to detect IP addresses linked to a VPN service. Once they find them, they can set up a firewall rule to block those specific IP addresses. 
A good way to overcome this is to get a Dedicated IP address. IP addresses can be easily linked to a VPN if many people use the same one. When you have exclusive access to an IP address, it’s almost impossible for it to be linked back to a VPN service.

Does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi?

Yes, a VPN protects you on public Wi-Fi by securing your internet traffic behind encryption before it leaves your device. This way, nobody will be able to read or make sense of your data as it passes through the public network. 

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