When you connect to a website, information travels from your device to the website. That could include sensitive data like the log in information for your financial, email, or social media accounts.
In the past, if you used a public Wi-Fi network to get online, your information was at risk. That’s because most websites didn’t use encryption to scramble the data and protect it from hackers snooping on the network.
Today, most websites do use encryption to protect your information. Because of the widespread use of encryption, connecting through a public Wi-Fi network is usually safe.
How do you know your connection is encrypted? Look for a lock symbol or https in the address bar to the left of the website address. This works on a mobile browser, too. It can be hard to tell if a mobile app uses encryption, but the majority do.
No matter how you get online, it’s always a good idea to take some steps to protect your personal information. Start with these.
Protect your online accounts and devices
If you use a computer to get online, make sure your security software, operating system, and internet browser are up to date. Update your phone’s operating system, too. And turn on automatic updates to keep up with the latest protections.
Scammers pretend to be someone they’re not, like a representative from a well-known company or the government, to rip you off or steal your personal information. They also create fake websites and encrypt them to make you think they’re safe when they’re not. If you visit a scammer’s website, your data may be encrypted on its way to the site, but it won’t be safe from scammers operating the site.
Report scammers to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.