Stay Safe! How to Prevent Your Devices From Auto-Connecting to Wi-Fi Networks
When you’re out and about, it might seem like a good idea to connect to an open Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, this can put your devices and your data at risk. Open Wi-Fi traffic isn’t encrypted, meaning your data can be intercepted while you’re connected.
That’s why it’s important to take precautions to prevent your devices from connecting automatically to open Wi-Fi networks, especially to a network you don’t trust. Now might be a good time to check your Wi-Fi settings before your devices take the decision out of your hands.
Here’s how you can stop it from happening.
Windows 10 and Automatic Wi-Fi Connections
If you’re using Windows 10, you won’t connect to any old open Wi-Fi network that your PC detects. If you connect to an open network at least once, however, it’ll save those details and connect you automatically the next time that network is detected.
Thankfully, disabling automatic Wi-Fi connections on Windows 10 couldn’t be simpler.
If you prefer to use Windows keyboard shortcuts, start by hitting Win + X on your keyboard. Otherwise, right-clicking the Windows icon on your Windows taskbar will bring up the same menu. From here, select Network Connections > Wi-Fi.
In the Wi-Fi settings area, click Manage known networks. In the list of known networks, select your open Wi-Fi network and click Properties.
Click the slide button for Connect automatically when in range from On to Off.
This’ll prevent any automatic connections in the future.
macOS and Automatic Wi-Fi Connections
With macOS, it’s pretty simple to disable auto connections if you’re running High Sierra or Mojave (macOS 10.14). You’ve got three ways you can reach your Wi-Fi connection settings.
The first method is to click your Wi-Fi icon on the top menu bar of your screen and click Open Network Preferences. The second is to click the Apple icon on your screen (far left) and go to System Preferences > Network. You can also click the Settings icon in your dock at the bottom of the screen, where you can also reach the Network area.
If you’re in range of the network, select it under the Network Name drop-down menu and disable the Automatically join this network checkbox directly underneath.
If you’re not in range, and you’re running Mojave, click Wi-Fi > Advanced. Find the open Wi-Fi network in the list and under the Auto-Join section, and then disable the checkbox for that network.
Anyone running Sierra (10.12) or an older macOS version won’t have the option to stop automatic connections. If this is the case, you’ll have to remove them from your Preferred Networks list instead. You can also do this on High Sierra or Mojave if you’d prefer. You’ll need to do this on High Sierra if the network is out of range.
As before, go to System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi > Advanced. Select your open network, then click the Minus icon below it to remove it.
This’ll stop your Mac from connecting to that network in the future unless you manually choose to connect to it again.
Android and Automatic Wi-Fi Connections
Depending on your Android version and manufacturer skin, getting to your Wi-Fi settings might vary slightly. The process should be similar, but there may be some variation in locating your Wi-Fi settings. The instructions below show how to change your settings on Android 9.0 Pie.
Head to your Android Settings area first. This can usually be found by searching for it in your app drawer, or by swiping down your notifications bar and clicking the Settings icon.
Go to Connections > Wi-Fi. If you’re in range of the open network, click on it, then set Auto reconnect to off.
If you’re not in range, click Advanced in the Wi-Fi area, then Manage networks. Choose your network and then set Auto reconnect to off.
iOS and Automatic Wi-Fi Connections
Like the other platforms, iOS devices like your iPhone and iPad will connect automatically to an open Wi-Fi network, but only if you’ve connected to it once before.
Head to Settings > Wi-Fi and tap the open network. From here, slide the Auto-Join setting button from On to Off. Unfortunately, you’ll need to be in Wi-Fi range of the network to be able to do this.
If you’re not, you can reset your network settings as a last resort. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. This will reset all of your network settings, including your cell network information and VPN connections details.
To avoid the hassle, simply head back into the range of the open network and follow the instructions above to change your network settings. Remember to disconnect from the network if it automatically connects before you can change the setting.
Ubuntu and Automatic Wi-Fi Connections
As one of the easiest Linux distributions to use, it’s easy to configure your Ubuntu PC to stop connecting to an open Wi-Fi network you’ve previously connected to. These instructions assume you’re running Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS—these instructions may not work for older versions of Ubuntu.
There are two ways you can access your network settings in Ubuntu. Click the Applications icon in the bottom left of your screen, then go to Settings > Wi-Fi. You can also click the Settings area in your top bar (where your volume and power buttons are located), then click your wireless connection.
From here, click Wi-Fi Settings.
Find your open Wi-Fi network (you’ll need to be in range) and click the Settings icon next to the padlock. Uncheck the Connect automatically checkbox, then click Apply. You can also click Forget Connection if you’d prefer.
You’ll have to be in range of the network to do this using the GUI. If you’re not in range, open up a terminal window and type the following:
cd /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections ls
Look at the files listed—you should see your open Wi-Fi network listed. From here, type the following in the terminal:
filename is the name of your open Wi-Fi network. This’ll delete the information about the network, preventing reconnection unless you choose to connect to it again.
Be Careful When Connecting to Open Wi-Fi Networks
It’s important to stress that not every open Wi-Fi network you’ll see is malicious, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of danger. Anybody can connect to an open network, and you could be on the same connection as somebody with the wrong intentions without ever knowing it. Disabling automatic Wi-Fi connections puts you back in control—if you don’t trust it, don’t connect.
Open Wi-Fi networks, even when they’re trustworthy, can still leave your data exposed to anyone with the right tools. Avoid the risk and choose from one of our top VPNs to stay safe whenever you connect to an open wireless network.
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