How to Always Find Free Wi-Fi
The rise of unlimited data plans means fewer people are desperate for Wi-Fi. Mobile hotspots make it easy to push your smartphone data plan to Wi-Fi-only devices, but that’s not the case for everyone: Wi-Fi is still important to many of us. Not all of us have unlimited data plans, and cellular reception isn’t perfect either – there are many areas with little or no service. In these cases Wi-Fi is needed again.
In some places, free Wi-Fi is almost given. Coffee houses are probably the most famous, and both remote workers and aspiring screenwriters use them as a makeshift office. However, sometimes even cafes oppose making it easy for customers to communicate. “No free Wi-Fi. Pretend it’s 1995 and talk to each other.” Hotels and other businesses usually have access to Wi-Fi, but networks are often locked down with passwords or other forms of authentication.
Be careful with free Wi-Fi maps
To make sure your destination has free Wi-Fi that you can connect to, you can use a Wi-Fi card. These services aggregate all available free Wi-Fi networks in your area, so you can plan accordingly. However, you don’t want to randomly select a Wi-Fi card: these services are especially hot targets for spooky activity because the developers know a lot of people will be looking for free Wi-Fi.
In terms of apps, WiFi Map is the best. It has its own website, so you don’t need an app, but you might prefer one: the iPhone and Android apps allow you to see a more detailed map of Wi-Fi locations, including the status of each network.
The WiFi card is not ideal in terms of privacy. According to the iOS App Store App Privacy Report, the Wi-Fi card tracks your purchase history, user ID, and device ID, and has access to the data associated with the specified user ID. However, it’s better than the competition. A similar app, Instabridge , tracks your device ID and usage data through “product interaction” with the app. It also collects data related to your identity from both of these data points, as well as your search history, browsing history, and your user ID. Whichever Wi-Fi card you use, I recommend blocking its ability to track your activity on iPhone with the Apple App Tracking Transparency and on Android with the DuckDuckGo app .
Always Use a VPN When Connecting to Public Wi-Fi
But your privacy concerns aren’t over. Once you confirm that the local baristas are not exactly hipsters and offer you free Wi-Fi, you should not connect to it without using a VPN . Why? Because free Wi-Fi is prone to spying and leaves you vulnerable to anyone who knows how to bypass such activities. You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t access banking sites while using public Wi-Fi, but you really shouldn’t be doing anything on public Wi-Fi without securing your connection.
Even though connecting to Starbucks Slack seems like a hassle, it will greatly reduce the risk of infection. VPNs encrypt your traffic and route it through a proxy server, usually in a completely different country than the one you’re in. A third party observer will not be able to access your traffic and will not be able to determine where you are. even if they are sitting next to your latte. Check out our full guide for more information on how VPNs can help when using free public Wi-Fi .
All this said, free Wi-Fi should be your last option. If possible, use your smartphone’s mobile hotspot and make sure the connection is password protected. But, I mean, let’s be realistic: we all use free Wi-Fi when we need it. I often work in cafes and certainly don’t burn my phone’s hotspot every time. As with many other things in life, it’s all about doing it as safely as possible, preferably with a good cup of coffee to boot.
[ SET ]