How to secure your Mac when using public Wi-Fi networks

  • 4 min read
  • Nov 22, 2016

Keep your Mac secure by using a VPN service while you browse the internet on public Wi-Fi.

When you are at your local coffee shop or airport, using the Wi-Fi network can keep you connected so you can work and play on the go. Unfortunately, public wireless networks almost always leave your Mac vulnerable to bad actors on the same network.

That’s where virtual private networks (VPN) come in.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network, or VPN, is a service that creates a secure direct connection from your computer to another network. So, for example, if you’re on your home network, it can let you access your work network as though you were at that location. If you’re in a coffee shop, instead of coming on on the internet from there, a VPN will let you come out at one of its own end-points.

Think of it like ventriloquism. You use the internet here but for all intents and purposes, all your traffic is coming out somewhere else.

Why do I need a VPN service?

A VPN makes your computer safe on unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Wirecutter has a fantastic explanation for why someone should use a VPN. I highly recommend you read it. Here’s an excerpt:

When you connect to Wi-Fi without a password, anyone on the network can examine your traffic. While some parts of your Web browsing, like passwords, shopping transactions, and Google searches, are commonly encrypted thanks to the “https” at the beginning of a Web address, other information, such as email, site addresses, and app activity, may not be. When you activate a VPN, all of your traffic appears as encrypted gibberish to whoever might be looking.

There are a number of reasons why a VPN is useful, but it is most beneficial to people that travel a lot. A VPN can make it possible for you to access your business network while on a trip without worrying about prying eyes tracking what your company is doing. It is also useful if you want to access your home network while out of the house. If you find yourself working from your favorite coffee shop a lot, a VPN will ensure no nefarious caffeine sippers are lurking around, watching your web browsing activities. If you try to download large files, a VPN will keep you from having trouble with throttling by your internet provider.

If you identify with any of these internet users, you should look into finding a VPN service that is right for you.

What VPN service should I get?

There are dozens of VPN services that work great. Some offer faster speeds than others. Some are more secure than others. It is important to investigate your options and see which service is right for you. Many of them offer a free tier or trial period so you can find out whether you want to invest. Here are some of the Mobile Nation team’s favorite VPN services.


With Buffered, you can use websites that are blocked by geolocation so you can connect to your home country’s websites while abroad (or vice versa). It features extra security to hide your location, protect you from hackers, and even keep your internet provider from tracking how much data you download.

See at Buffered

VPN Unlimited

KeepSolid prides itself on its extra-strength security. You can browse the internet and share information with people you want to share it with without fear of unwanted prying eyes. All of your web activities are kept anonymous and you can access geo-blocked sites around the world. We love KeepSolid because of its ultra-fast performance. You won’t be slowed down while staying protected.

See at KeepSolid


CyberGhost makes it very easy to browse the internet without being seen, like a ghost. It works automatically so when you launch a browser, you automatically connect to a VPN. It unblocks streaming services for users in countries where certain services aren’t supported. It also has the added benefit of having an ad blocker, malware detector, and anti-tracking system. So you’re safe from more than just surfing the net.

See at CyberGhost VPN

Private Tunnel

Private Tunnel works to keep you safe from spoofing and man-in-the-middle attacks by making your internet activities unseen by nefarious groups or individuals. It uses OpenVPN, which is a trusted source. You are not required to sign up for any programs and there are free and premium services available.

See at Private Tunnel


Tunnelbear is a safe VPN that is always on, and always protecting you. It is one of my favorites because of how easy it is to set up and use. It protects your data with strong encryption and has fast speeds, too. You can use one service with up to five devices and you only have to pay for the service if you use more than 500MB per month.

See at Tunnelbear


PureVPN will have your back when you’re trying to stream movies, download huge files, or listen to music on five different services. It provides super fast internet speeds while still encrypting your data with the strongest security possible. It is compatible with more than just computers and mobile devices, too. It works with set-top boxes, gaming consoles, PC sticks, and more. It is highly recommended by users for its broad variety of options.

See at PureVPN

More suggestions

Your favorite?

What VPN network do you use and why do you think it’s the best? Let us know in the comments.