This article will explore the risks associated with public Wi-Fi and the steps needed to ensure public Wi-Fi safety. No one can really say no to public Wi-Fi. With the ever-rising popularity of the Internet, free Wi-Fi has become even more accessible. Be it shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, airports, libraries, hotel rooms, etc. We can easily get access to public Wi-Fi. YET, we can’t differentiate between a secured network and an unsecured one.
Public Wi-Fi is not secure. Even if you think that password-protected Wi-Fi should be secure, it’s not. Especially if the password is available for all to use. You don’t even know who set up that particular public Wi-Fi? Who else is on the same network?
Yes, public Wi-Fi is hard to ignore. Just remember that as you love them, so do hackers. Most people do not know the risks involved when connecting to public Wi-Fi. They keep on using them, disregarding public Wi-Fi safety. But even if they do, it is harder to say no to free internet. The risks outweigh the benefit of public Wi-Fi. You are risking your online identity and money. However, if you are still insistent to connect to public Wi-Fi, kindly follow the simple technical steps and common sense mentioned further down in this article.
How do hackers use Free Wi-Fi to threaten our security?
Hackers love public Wi-Fi, for it is easy to utilize them to launch an attack. Some popular methods where hackers use Wi-Fi to undermine your security are as follows:
- Fake hotspots, “The Evil Twin” — People don’t think twice before connecting to a public Wi-Fi. Hackers take advantage of such mentality. They create a fake hotspot with a name similar to that of a legitimate venue and lead you to connect to the fake hotspot.
- File sharing protocol — Since you do not know the type of network you are connecting to, it enables the hacker to hood wink you into establishing an FTP with your device, thus gaining an avenue into your data.
- The Wi-Fi pineapple — It is a piece of hardware to do a network auditing while testing a network’s security setup. But in the hands of hackers it can create a false access point in order to launch a man-in-the middle attack.
- Fraudulent System alerts — If you find yourself being prompted to do an instant system upgrade while on a public Wi-Fi, chances are it is a disguised attack in order to bypass your firewall. Never trust or click on any system alerts when on public Wi-Fi.
Risks associated with connecting to public Wi-Fi
Some of the most common dangers and risks associated with public Wi-Fi are below. You can try to avoid them or take precautionary action against them.
- Easy access to your personal information — We know that public Wi-Fi are unsecure. Thus, it is easy to gain access to our personal information.
- Malware Infestation — You are prone to malware attacks when on a public Wi-Fi. It can either be a disguised attack or a hacker can simply spread malware to your device.
- Intercepting your Data packets — A device sends data over the internet in the form of packets. When on an unsecure network, a third party can intercept these packets in the middle and retrieve information such as your web traffic and messages etc. among the rest.
- Snooping — It may sound absurd, but hackers tend to lurk around. They don’t mind snooping and sniffing around the network to find an easy breaching point.
- Worm exposure — Worms are an old adage when it comes to cyberattacks. They work like a virus, targeting one app/program at a time to besiege the system all alone.
- Session jacking/Side jacking — A bit advanced but still possible way of attack. A hacker can use packet sniffing to target your cookies containing login info for various sites. Then they can intercept the cookie while pretending to be you and login to wherever they want with none being the wiser.
Steps needed to ensure public Wi-Fi safety
Connecting to public Wi-Fi is indeed risky. But if you happen to connect to one, you can simply follow the instructions listed below to stay guarded against them.
- Install and use an Antivirus/Anti Malware software — You need to ensure that your device has antivirus or anti malware software before you connect to a public Wi-Fi. One of the major threats of unsecure Wi-Fi is the vulnerability to viruses and malware. So, in order to circumvent that threat, you need a quality antivirus software.
- Subscribe to a quality VPN service — A VPN is no doubt the best way to tackle most of the problems posed by a public Wi-Fi. It allows a user to connect to a virtual private network, even over a public network. VPN creates a tunnel between you and the server, thus effectively encrypting all the data packets sent over the network. As a result, no one can sniff your packets. Also, VPN provides anonymity by remote logging. Thus making sure your information is private and secure.
- Always keep your firewall turned on — Firewalls prevent any unauthorized external access to your device. Just keep in mind that a firewall on its own is not a stand-alone. One needs to use a firewall in tandem with antivirus software and VPN for a complete solution.
- Access HTTPS Websites — HTTPS sites are far more secure than their older counterpart, HTTP. You should never browse an HTTP site when on a public Wi-Fi. The benefit of HTTPS sites are that people on the same network can’t snoop on your web traffic.
- Always keep file sharing turned off — Make a habit to always keep your file sharing off when on a public Wi-Fi. It will resolve a ton of threat which may otherwise find their way to your device.
Free Wi-Fi is much of a burden than it is worth. I would recommend either use your mobile network data when you are out and about or bring a portable hotspot. IF you have no choice but to connect to public Wi-Fi, it is highly recommended to follow the several tips mentioned in this article for your public Wi-Fi safety.