Do you get nervous when an airport’s WiFi asks for your info? Do you browse off your phone’s hotspot in order to avoid dodgy hotel WiFi? It might put you at ease to hear you’re stressing over *virtually* nothing. These WiFi networks are now more secure than they’re ever been.
Why’s that? A little something called HTTPS.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (the “S” stands for secure), otherwise known as HTTPS, is an encryption existing between your browser and the server you’re visiting. These encryptions currently blanket over 80 percent of the websites loaded on Firefox, up from the mere 21 percent of the world’s top 100 websites back in 2016.
If you’re curious as to whether or not you have a secure connection, just check out the top left hand corner of your browser. See the little lock symbol? Of course you do, because WWTS.com has a HTTPS connection. When this symbol shows up, you know your browser’s connection is secure, no matter where the WiFi comes from.
Checking for this lock is a simple way to secure your browsing activity.
“If you’re in the US, the web is pretty well encrypted. It’s unusual to go to a website that matters and it’s not HTTPS,” says Tod Beardsley, director of research at security firm Rapid7. “Because of that, the threat, and really the risk, of going on even sketchy local Wi-Fi has dramatically dropped.”
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Are you on some seriously shady websites? Are you wanted by a powerful government? Is the IRS particularly interested in what you’re up to? HTTPS may not be enough to secure your internet activity in this case. But for us average folk, the large majority of queries and searches you toss out into the web are safe from hackers and everyday scammers.
So, if you’re heading off on holiday soon, let the security of airport and hotel WiFi not be one of your concerns. It’ll give you more time to worry about that oversize luggage of yours.
Still not feeling secure, even with HTTPS? Look into getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These secure networks allow you to browse without being spied on or tracked and there are many options to choose from (think holiday shopping without marketers knowing every item you’ve got your eye on).
Happy (secure) browsing!