How Safe is Mobile Internet vs Wi-Fi?

4G mobile internet cellular vs wi-fi security image

4G mobile Internet / cellular vs Wi-Fi security.

Whether we’re out and about or lounging around the house, we do most of our web surfing on a wireless connection these days. It’s fast, convenient, and means you can access your email, social media, or streaming services from almost anywhere – without messing with a bunch of cords. 

Unfortunately, wireless Internet is also inherently less safe than wired Internet because of the way it transmits data. But not all wireless internet is created equal, in that regard. 


Which is Safer: Mobile Internet (4G) or Wi-Fi?

In short, from safest to least safe, the wireless Internet hierarchy looks something like this:

  • Mobile Internet/4G - safest
  • Private Wi-Fi network
  • Public Wi-Fi network - least safe

But let’s look at the why
 

Mobile Internet

The biggest safety advantages of your phone’s data package come from the fact that: 1. The traffic is encrypted; and 2. It’s harder to hack. No​te: It is still hackable, it’s just more difficult.

This makes 4G much safer than public Wi-Fi, all things being the same.

However, there are some disadvantages to mobile Internet.

  • More expensive
  • Limited data
  • Limited speeds
  • Inconsistent signal 
     

Private Wi-Fi

A private Wi-Fi network, like the one you have at home, is harder to hack than a public hotspot – but still a little easier to hack than 4G. And it’s not automatically encrypted, though you can make it that way.

In short, it’s typically more safe than public Wi-Fi but less safe than mobile Internet. With the right configuration, however, it can be just as safe – if not safer – than 4G.

Private Wi-Fi also comes with some major advantages:

  • High data allowances
  • High bandwidth limits
  • Consistent signal
  • More control 
     

Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi hotspots, like the one you connect to at your favorite coffee shop or the local library, is not at all safe. In some cases, they’re not even protected by a password, making them easily compromised by even amateur hackers.

If that weren’t enough, public Wi-Fi is often slow and drops connections easily.

But it does have a few advantages.

  • Usually free (or included in price of coffee, hotel, etc.)
  • Widely accessible

How to Maximize Your Safety on Wireless Internet

Whether you’re using a shady, unsecured hotspot at a rundown McDonald’s or your phone’s data package, there’s one easy step you can take to drastically increase your safety and privacy when using wireless Internet.

If you’re using public Wi-Fi, this is an absolute must-have, but we consider it a no-brainer for all Internet users.

And that thing is a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN has several huge advantages for wireless Internet:

  • Encrypts your Internet traffic, making it much more secure
  • Disguises your device info, location, and IP address
  • Allows you to bypass the content/website blocks common on public Wi-Fi and even some mobile plans
  • Helps you avoid Internet speed throttling or data caps

Here are our picks for the top VPNs. And they all come with sick smartphone apps, making them easy to use with both 4G and Wi-Fi.

RANK

VPN SERVICE

FEATURES

BEST PRICE

MORE INFO

1

NordVPN best secure VPN service

• best VPN overall
• no-logs & P2P allowed
• 60 countries & 5,589 servers

$3.71/mo
$11.95/mo

save 68%

Try risk-free for 30 days

2

ExpressVPN best overall vpn service

• fastest VPN
• no-logs & allows torrenting  
• 94 countries & 3,000 servers

$6.67/mo
$12.95/mo

save 49%

Try risk-free for 30 days

3

Private Internet Access VPN best value VPN service

• cheap VPN
• zero-logs & torrent-friendly
• 77 countries & 3,274 servers

$2.19/mo
$9.99/mo

save 82%

Try risk-free for 30 days

Recapping the Safest Way to Connect

With VPNs added to the equation, we have to update our safety hierarchy a little.

  • Mobile Internet or private Wi-Fi through VPN - safest
  • Public Wi-Fi through VPN
  • Mobile Internet/4G
  • Private Wi-Fi
  • Public Wi-Fi - least safe

If you don’t have a VPN, we’d suggest using 4G over public Wi-Fi whenever possible. And if you absolutely have to use public Wi-Fi, don’t access sensitive information, like online banking.

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