Public Wi-Fi usage is growing, and public Wi-Fi gaming is growing with it. There were about 7.8 million global public Wi-Fi hotspots in 2015, a number that will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 11.2 percent between now and 2020, ABI Research projects. Nine out of 10 Americans access public Wi-Fi networks at least once a month, and 43 percent connect on a weekly basis, according to an Avast survey.
But here's the problem: 68 percent don't take the security precaution of disabling automated access to local networks, and only 6 percent use virtual private networks (VPNs). Engage in these risky behaviors, and you could turn a fun gaming session into a security nightmare. Games are especially susceptible to cyberattack because hackers often disguise malware as game updates and utilities. Here are some steps you should take when using public Wi-Fi networks to ensure that hackers and identity theft don't spoil your gaming fun.
Avoid Suspicious Networks
- Keep your firewall on, and beware of multi-user gaming sites that require you to make an exception to your firewall settings
- Adjust your device settings to require your device to alert you before connecting to a local network
- Turn off public file sharing and mark the Wi-Fi network you're connecting to as a public one
- Verify that the network you're connecting to is an official one hosted by the establishment you're in by looking for password protection options or asking an employee
Use a Virtual Private Network
Stick to HTTPS Sites
Always make sure you are using an HTTPS site when typing sensitive data such as passwords and credit card numbers and other financial information. Additionally:
- Only play games at official game sites and avoid browsing on other sites while playing
- Play from a user account, and beware of unknown sites that require you to play games in administrator mode, which can open you up to hackers seeking to gain administrative control of your computer
- Keep your antivirus program updated to catch potential threats
- Use an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock to get additional protection should your financial information become compromised online