You’re away from home, and you need a connection. You have two options – you can use the public WiFi, or you can use the 4G mobile hotspot that probably comes for free with your phone plan (or is at least included in the price). Both will work to get you online, but which is better? Most importantly, which is safer? When you’re transmitting data outside the confines of your own home, you need to be sure you’ve picked your safest bet.
The Ways Devices Connect
There are three primary ways that devices like smartphones, tablets, or laptops can wirelessly connect to the internet.
The 4G hotspot on your phone is the same exact connection that your smartphone gets. Instead of internet access coming from a traditional internet service provider, the internet service is received from your phone carrier. It’s like making another device an extension of your phone on an encrypted wireless connection.
Everyone and their mother offers public WiFi as a way to draw people in – even places you wouldn’t expect it. You might see “Free WiFi” signs outside of gas stations. And that’s the problem. Public WiFi draws in large crowds of people and puts them all on the same shared network, making it the least safe way to access the internet. The only way to keep yourself fully secure and invisible to malicious people on shared networks like these is by using a VPN. If you aren’t using a VPN, you might want to avoid public WiFi entirely.
Is 4G Safe?
4G connections are encrypted, but they still don’t offer Fort Knox level security. Cybersecurity researchers have found vulnerabilities in 4G networks, and have successfully launched man in the middle attacks. 4G can be hacked, but only by skilled hackers who use complicated techniques. This means that you’re far less vulnerable on 4G than you would be on unprotected public WiFi. Neither choice is perfect, but 4G is better.
How Do I Stay Safe?
No matter how you choose to connect, use a VPN. You’re never truly safe, secure, or anonymous if the data you’re transmitting has even the slightest chance of being plainly visible or somewhat vulnerable to anyone who may have an interest in stealing it. Equip your smartphone (and your laptop, and your router) with TorGuard VPN. You’ll never need to worry about whether or not a connection is safe to use if you bring your safety gear with you.