How secure is your mobile phone connection? This is a question Kathleen is asking, as she wants to know the difference between mobile data and WiFi security.
“For my cellphone, is it more secure to use the mobile data connection or is it more secure to use the WiFi from (spectrum/cable) for my phone connection? Thanks, Kathleen”
We’re all concerned about our security and personal details being protected from those who shouldn’t have access to them. Because having a safe and stable WiFi connection isn’t always readily available to us, many people like Kathleen wonder if it’s still safe to use cellular data.
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What’s the difference between using cellular data and a WiFi network?
Using cellular data means that your cellphone is using its data plan in connection with the cellular networks and cellphone towers around it to get service. If your cellular data is turned off, then you won’t be able to receive messages, install software updates, surf the web, and more.
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Using cellular data means your phone is also connected to a cell tower. (CyberGuy.com)
Using a WiFi network means your phone is connected to a router that uses radio waves to operate and give you high-speed internet. It deletes the issue of using up all your data, however, it doesn’t cover as large of a range as using cellular data would.
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Which is more secure to use: cellular data or WiFi?
Cellular data and private WiFi networks can both provide you with a significant amount of security, however, they each have their pros and cons.
Pros of using cellular data
- Uses cellular networks to operate, which typically come encrypted and have numerous layers of security
- Operates with technologies like GSM, CDMA, or LTE, which have built-in encryption protocols that protect your data from being intercepted
- Managed by mobile network operators that actively operate various security measures
Cons of using cellular data
- Could end up being more expensive than using a WiFi network
- The speed of your connection can depend on the strength of the signal
- Limited by the amount of data included in your plan, meaning if you run out of data, then you could be charged more or experience much slower speeds
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Using a WiFi router is a way to avoid using all of your data. (CyberGuy.com)
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Pros of using WiFi
- Could be cheaper than using cellular data
- Speed is not affected by the strength of your signal
- No limits on usage
Cons of using WiFi
- Your security will depend on how your network is set up and configured
- More susceptible to being hacked because their encryption is not as strong
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Although WiFi networks can be made to be secure, overall they are still not quite as secure as using cellular data. Cellular networks use encryption protocols that are much more difficult to break, however, you can still make sure that your WiFi network is securely configured so that your chances of getting hacked become extremely low. Here are some of my tips for securing your WiFi network.
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How to make sure your WiFi network is secure
There are a few steps you should be taking to make sure that your WiFi network is as safe as it can be from hackers who want your private information. Here’s what you can do.
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WiFi router connected to an ethernet cable. (CyberGuy.com)
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Create a stronger password
One of the easiest ways for a hacker to make their way onto your WiFi network is by guessing your password correctly. The more complicated your password is, the less likely they will be to guess it. Consider using a password manager to keep track of all your passwords instead of relying on a single password, which, if stolen, can expose you.
Use a guest network for other people visiting
Did you know that you don’t actually have to give guests your password if you have a guest network? If possible, to do with your router, you should create a guest network that others can use while they’re in your home so that you don’t have to share your WiFi password with anyone who doesn’t live with you, which could reduce your risk of being hacked. If you feel comfortable you can also easily share your WiFi password with guests. And for more information on how to see if someone is stealing your WiFi click here.
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Have your network encrypted
Some of the latest encryption protocols you can use are WPA2 and WPA3. Make sure you’re using those protocols and not something older like WEP as those security measures are not up-to-date and can be easily hacked into. To encrypt your network with WPA2 or WPA3, you need to access your router’s administrator console and change the encryption settings. Here are some steps you can follow:
- Connect your computer to your router using an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi.
- Open a web browser and enter the IP address of your router in the address bar. You can find the IP address on the label of your router or in the user manual. It is usually something like 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1.
- Enter the username and password to log in to your router’s administrator console. If you don’t know them, you can try the default ones or look them up online. You can also reset your router to factory settings if you forgot them, but this will erase all your custom settings.
- Look for the Wireless or Wireless Settings menu and then click on Security.
- Choose the WPA2-PSK or WPA3-SAE option from the encryption settings. If you can’t find them, consider updating your router’s firmware or getting a new router that supports them.
- Set a strong password for your network that is at least 12 characters long and contains a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using common words or personal information that can be easily guessed.
- Save the changes and restart your router if needed.
To check if it worked, look for the padlock icon next to the name of your network in your device’s network settings. You will need to reconnect all your devices to the network using the new password.
Make sure your firmware is updated
The firmware on your router is also important because the more up to date it is, the less likely you are to be hacked. Manufacturers for these routers will often release updates to correct vulnerabilities in their security system, so make sure yours is always up to date.
Avoid using public WiFi
Using public WiFi can be dangerous because there is very little protection on those networks. You’d be better off using your cellular data in those circumstances, and you should always avoid visiting websites that will require you to enter your private information such as your online banking site.
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Kurt’s key takeaways
Both private WiFi networks and cellular data plans provide a great deal of security, so double-check the pros and cons list we provided above and see which one feels better for you. Just remember, if you do decide to use a WiFi network to help you save money and get potentially faster speed, make sure you’re taking those extra steps to secure your network and keep those hackers out.
How do you choose between cellular data and WiFi for your mobile phone connection? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact
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