The iPhone’s personal hotspot – also called tethering – is a great feature that allows you to take the internet with you everywhere you go. So long as you have a data plan, you can connect your other devices to the internet via your mobile data so that you can always log on to the web.
The thing is, as with any public Wi-Fi network, using your hotspot has some risks. First of all, anyone could use your hotspot if it’s not properly secured, and this could wind you up with a pretty large data bill at the end of the month!
On top of that, hackers could intercept your hotspot and use it to gain access to your personal information. Hacking into a Wi-Fi network is very easy to do if you have the right software and have taken the time to learn some basic hacking skills.
So, before you set up your personal hotspot in public, follow these simple steps to ensure that you’re doing so securely.
How to secure your iPhone’s personal hotspot
If you’re out on the go, then you probably need Wi-Fi fast, and this can mean that you’ll happily use your hotspot to get the job done. But these simple tricks only take a few minutes to set up and they’ll ensure that you’re the only one using your hotspot.
Change your SSID: This is the name that you give your hotspot. Hackers often use what is known as a ‘rainbow attack’ which searches for the 1,000 most common SSID names and then tries to crack them. If your hotspot is set up to ‘Dan’s iPhone’ then you’re probably in that list. Change your SSID to something more random, like ‘Wellington St 2201’ or ‘Panda’s on parade’ (you get the idea) so that hackers won’t identify you as quickly in public.
To change your SSID, simply go to Settings on your iPhone, then General > About > and then press Name. Simply change the name assigned to your iPhone – this is your SSID. From now on, your hotspot will show up as the new name that you’ve designated. It’s not like you’ll be hidden, but you’ll be a lot less likely to be targeted if you have a random SSID than if it’s something simple and common.
Change your password: Face it, you probably have a really weak password. There’s no reason not to set a really strong password for your personal hotspot because you can simply go onto your Settings menu on your iPhone and see what it is. Basically, you’ve always got access to it on your phone, but no one else can get to it.
Set your password as a 20 character long mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols to make it difficult to crack. The Last Pass password generator is a great free tool to use for creating such passwords.
Don’t give out your password: You’ve probably been there before, either someone is asking you for your hotspot password, or you’re asking someone else. It’s a pretty common scenario and it can be hard to say no considering how simple it is. Most people just want to use it so that they can check a quick email or Google something. There are those, however, who have the best intentions and the worst actions.
A common one is office colleagues, who ask for your hotspot when the network is down or faulty and then continue to use it and end up watching 20 videos on YouTube which eats into your data bill. You end up footing the bill because Sarah in HR wanted your hotspot for five minutes and ended up watching season 8 of Game of Thrones on it during her lunch break.
If you do end up giving out your password to your hotspot, then remember that that person’s device will likely automatically connect to your hotspot later on – or they’ll just turn it on because the password will already have been saved on their device. The best thing to do is to give it out, but then change the password after they’ve used it. It’ll take two minutes to do and it’ll stop you from receiving a massive bill at the end of the month.
Enable the latest encryption: To ensure that someone isn’t trying to hack into your hotspot, make sure that you have the latest encryption available on your phone. The best thing to have is WPA2. This is generally turned on by default, although some older devices might have something out-of-date, like WEP, because they want to ensure that older phones are as usable as possible given their weaker processing systems.
Turn on WPA2 encryption on your mobile hotspot to ensure that you’re as secure as you can possibly be.
Purchase a VPN
When it comes to anyone trying to get their hands on your data through any means, having a VPN with strong encryption will ensure that they cannot gain access to your personal information. The best VPNs will come with what’s called AES-256 bit encryption. This is the same encryption that is used by the US military and most major banks and it would take all the super-computers in the world an unfathomable amount of time to crack.
Don’t be roped into using a free VPN, as running VPN servers costs a lot of money and generally if it’s free then this means that the company has written in their terms and conditions that it’s okay for them to sell your personal information on to third-parties. This is a blatant breach of privacy and thus why you should never trust a VPN that stores your data.
A good VPN is worth paying $5 a month for and will make it practically impossible for hackers to target you. Do some research on the best available options and choose the one that it right for you.