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1)Turn off sharing:
If you use a laptop, you might have it set to share files and folders with other computers at work or home. You don't want these settings on when you're using a public network.
2)Don't automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks:
It's handy when your smartphone, tablet and laptop automatically connect to your home and work networks, but that can lead to trouble when you're out and about.
3)Use security software
Your laptop should have the same anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection that your home computer does. The firewall is particularly important when on a public network. Its entire purpose is to keep snoops out of your system.
The top 5 things I suggest are:
1. Use a VPN.
2. Turn off sharing on your laptop.
3. Use HTTPS Everywhere, a free browser extension from EFF.
4. Enable the firewall on your laptop.
5. Don’t log into sensitive sites like your bank account. For sensitive accounts that you just have to use, Gmail for example, set up and use 2-factor authentication.
Even doing all of there, you are not completely secure - the initial communication with a proxy is unsecured, for example. I feel comfortable using public WiFi after taking these steps and I think the remaining risk level is acceptable. You have to make that call for yourself though.