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Home / Apple / Why you should use a VPN on a public Wi-Fi network

Why you should use a VPN on a public Wi-Fi network

When you connect to a free or paid public Wi-Fi network, you may notice that some redirection occurs. Instead of going to a website you intend to visit or retrieve your email, Apple adds smartly to a Wi-Fi popup or screen in both iOS and macOS. On this screen you can sign in or accept the terms of use of the network and continue.

Apple makes this portal page appear when iPhone, iPad, or Mac can not reach an Apple website right after networking. The operating system understands that something is in the way, and it's almost always a portalside that Apple can repackage to make it easier for you to spot.

  Mac911 captive apple portal IDG

Apple tests if it can connect to one of the domains to see if there is a portal on a Wi-Fi network.

But should you worry that your network operator – whether it's a mom and pop caffeine store, a hotel chain or a business device that offers free access – can throw your data as it floats over what's really their network?

Not really, and I'll explain why. But if you have lingering concerns, a virtual private network (VPN) subscription will relieve them. First let me explain why you have little to fear, and then go into VPN.

Redirect is not a hijacker

Redirecting on a Wi-Fi portal takes place at a very rough level. Anyone who runs the network blocks devices that they do not know before they turn off and effectively turn off the Internet. But once you've passed a test click on a button, sign in or post a payment – redirect ends and you have unobstructed internet access.

But it's also worth considering whether these unprotected and often barely managed or barely watched networks can have snoopers on them. There may be someone sitting in the corner of a cafe, but it is unlikely. It is more likely that if you are on a compromised network, there is a computer on the malware network installed to try to get details, or a router has been updated to include virus-loaded firmware.

  Wireless Symbol Thinkstock

The good news is that it is unlikely that a compromised network trying to get details from users will get a lot of information these days. Due to data breakages for national security devices in the US and other countries a few years ago, the vast majority of companies offering email, search and even content-based Internet services have switched to encrypted web, email, and app-based connections. (Financial, medical, medical and e-commerce networks have been wise many years ago. If you have one that does not use encryption for everything, you must stop using it!)

A malicious party can not just get into a secured connection by mimicking a webpage or email server or what do you have. The encrypted connection is dependent on validation that is baked in Apple's operating systems and in third-party browsers, such as Firefox. If someone tries to invade, your different software will disclose warnings, as an "insecure connection". Stop and run away from this site until you find out what's going on. (It differs from phishing emails trying to make you visit fake websites and provide real details.)

If you get a warning more than once in a physical location on your Wi-Fi connection, if You have time and can find someone who cares, let them know.

Try a VPN instead

Some people will simply not have the potential for any of their network data to be investigated, whether the content is secured or not. For example, a third party scan of a network can determine which websites you visit, although they can not determine which pages you download or view the information you submit or return in return.

This is where a VPN comes in. A VPN usually encrypts all the data that comes in and leaves the computer or mobile device by routing everything to a server elsewhere on the internet in a secure data center. Even though most or all you already do is use an encrypted connection, VPN packs another layer around it, giving more anonymity to the place you are in and more privacy in general.

You can configure most VPNs to turn on automatically when you are on an unknown network or one you have marked as public or unsure.

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