How to keep your mobile hotspot secure

Camryn Smith

May 23, 2024 — 4 min read

A mobile hotspot can be a savior when you need internet on the go, but it's important to keep it secure.

man on phone

Mobile hotspots are great in a pinch and can keep you connected on the go, but are they secure?

In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever to ensure your online security. Securing a mobile hotspot can prevent someone from hacking into your personal devices and accessing your information. Follow these tips to secure your mobile hotspot.

What is a mobile hotspot?

A mobile hotspot device allows you to connect to the internet on the go. It creates a small network that you can connect your devices to when you are away from your own home network. They are great in a pinch, like if you have no public Wi-Fi and need to get some work done.

There are two types of mobile hotspots: A portable device hotspot and a mobile hotspot through your smartphone using your cellular data.

Portable Wi-Fi hotspot device

A portable Wi-Fi hotspot is a physical device that routes a cellular network to your device. Think of it as a mini router that provides you with an internet connection.

You can purchase portable Wi-Fi hotspot devices from your mobile carrier or other electronic retailers. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all offer hotspot devices; just keep in mind that youou must purchase a data plan along with the device. Amazon also sells Wi-Fi hotspots, but you’ll need to purchase the data plan separately.

Hotspot through your mobile phone

The other option for a mobile hotspot is to use your smartphone. Cellular data can turn your smartphone into a mobile hotspot, and you can connect your devices directly to it. Mobile carriers offer plans with unlimited mobile hotspot data, either included with the plan or for an extra fee.

How does a mobile hotspot work?

Your mobile hotspot creates a wireless network for your devices to connect to. It acts as a router to establish the localized network and enables you to connect your devices to it wirelessly. Your devices piggyback onto your hotspot’s internet connection.

In order for the hotspot to establish the network, it needs an active internet connection through either Wi-Fi or cellular data. When you are on the go and use your phone as a mobile hotspot, for example, you’re likely using your cellular data.

Pro tip

While using a mobile hotspot, keep an eye on your data usage. You could get hit with data overage fees if you exceed your monthly limit.

What are mobile hotspot security threats?

Since your devices essentially piggyback onto your hotspot, all internet traffic on your device first goes through the hotspot. This means that your data could be hacked from two places instead of one, which poses security risks.

If someone were to hack into your hotspot network, they could have access to your connected device’s internet traffic which likely includes personal information.

How can I secure my mobile hotspot?

To avoid any security threats while using a mobile hotspot, follow these tips:

Use a VPN

A VPN is one of the best ways to keep your network secure, and using it for your mobile hotspot is even better. A VPN encrypts your data so no one can see your online activity and also hides your IP address. Using a VPN on both your hotspot device and connected device will ensure a safe network.

Antivirus software

Download antivirus software on your devices to protect them from malicious software that could steal your data. Always update your antivirus software as needed to maintain the protection on your devices.

Enable security features on hotspot device or phone

Many portable hotspot devices come with security features, like WPA encryption. You can enable strong encryption on the device to ensure more security. WPA3 is the most secure option, so before you buy a portable hotspot device, research its security features to find out if you need to find one with more to offer.

Avoid public Wi-Fi

You can use mobile hotspots with cellular data or with Wi-Fi, but avoid using them on public Wi-Fi networks since these are not secure. Public Wi-Fi can be accessed by anyone, so it’s always wise to avoid it if possible or have the necessary security measures in place if you do use it.

Set a complex password

Your hotspot will come with an assigned password, but it’s a good idea to change it to something secure and strong. Avoid using personal information in the password, use a combination of different character types and do not share it with anyone.

Read more about keeping your network secure.

Mobile hotspot vs. Wi-Fi hotspot

Mobile hotspots and Wi-Fi hotspots both accomplish the same thing, but they do so differently. As the name suggests, you can only use a Wi-Fi hotspot if you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi networks are sometimes more reliable, especially with a high-speed connection, but they are much more limited location-wise than portable hotspots. Portable hotspots do not rely on Wi-Fi networks and function using cellular data, so they are the better choice for taking on the go.

Mobile hotspot security FAQs

Is a mobile hotspot secure?

Not necessarily. You must always be prepared for security threats when using a mobile hotspot. Luckily, there are measures you can take to ensure security, like using a VPN and taking advantage of your hotspot’s security features.

A malicious hotspot is an unsecured Wi-Fi network that hackers create to steal people’s info and infect devices with malicious software.

Essentially, yes. Tethering allows you to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot, so your device can use your phone’s data to establish an internet connection. Instead of using a public network, you can use your phone’s data plan for internet. A portable mobile hotspot does the same thing, it’s just a separate device. It is like a mini router connecting to your carrier’s cellular tower to provide an internet connection.

A mobile hotspot is not the most secure way to connect to the internet, since hackers could access your data from either the hotspot or the device connected to it. Follow our security tips to make sure you’re staying safe while connected.

Camryn Smith

Written by:

Camryn Smith

Cammy is a writer with Allconnect, growing her broadband industry knowledge for over a year on the internet marketplace. Her expertise lies in home internet and broadband service with a focus on providers, plans… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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