Free public WiFi is coming to the Philippines through the “Free Internet in Public Places Act.” The Senate has already finished the third and final reading of the bill, which was sponsored by Senator Bam Aquino.

Once the bill has been signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte, public places will have free WiFi hotspots for everyone. People will be able to check in with their social media accounts and more.

Filipino students and families are some of the reasons why the Senate Bill No. 1277 was made. Pangilinan, who is the author of the bill, said in a statement obtained by the Manila Bulletin that students will finally be able to do more research. He added that families will also be able to contact their loved ones abroad.

Public places such as parks, hospitals, plazas, airports and libraries will have free WiFi hotspots. Moreover, the bill was made with good intentions, but that there are some couple of potential problems in the mix.

Will it be fast enough?

With potentially hundreds of users connected to a single WiFi hotspot, it’s difficult to imagine how the speed will keep up. Have you ever tried opening a webpage while another person is streaming something on YouTube and two more people are downloading files? I tried it and it’s definitely not fun.

Parks and Recreation

One easy solution is to limit the bandwidth of each connected user. I’ve seen it done in some of the local malls in Metro Manila and it seems to be effective.

Will you be safe from “cyber warriors”?

If the government is not a threat, hackers certainly are. Free public WiFi hotspots will be a gold mine for malicious hackers. This is true even for coffee shop WiFi hotspots.

Mr Robot WiFi Hack

There will definitely be some form of abuse once the bill is turned into law. With proper precautions, you’ll still be able to use the free public WiFi to spread the love about your favorite local artists.

PSA: Protect Yourself

Here are some tips to protect yourself when using any kind of free public WiFi hotspots. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry!

1. Keep updated

No, this doesn’t necessarily mean keeping up to date with the latest gigs and concerts. Always update your software. If you’re on a laptop, don’t neglect the software updates. If you’re on a smartphone, get the latest OS version stat. Android smartphones are particularly vulnerable but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your Galaxy S7 Edge anymore. While iPhones are known for being “more secure,” there are still ways to be hacked. 

2. Let’s get virtual

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Paid VPN is better but free ones can still work just as fine. They can be installed on your iPhone or smartphone as an app. VPNs encrypt all data that is sent and received between you and the Internet, bypassing any connection. This means that anybody connected on the same WiFi will not be able to read your data.

3. Be sensitive

Avoid opening sensitive files or entering passwords while connected to a public WiFi. There are some reported exploits that can allow hackers to stream whatever is on your screen. If you don’t have a secure connection, better refrain from opening your phone or laptop at all.

4. Skip the WiFi

Use mobile data instead. I feel like this should just have been the first tip. Mobile data prices today are getting cheaper. There are also promos from carriers allowing users to use Facebook per day for a few pesos of their load. You can quickly send that selfie with the band vocalist or DJ without getting hacked.

Always use free WiFi with caution even if you are at a concert or gig. An ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure.