You’ve probably read tons of articles telling you to avoid public wi-fi at all costs. Some go as far as advising you to never connect to this enticing free internet – and they are right.
While public wi-fi at your local coffee shop or restaurant seems harmless, there’s a ton of risks involved in using the wi-fi. For one, hackers love public wi-fi as they provide easy targets to attack. But that’s not all.
Here are some of the risks you expose yourself to every time you use public wi-fi.
1. Man-in-the-middle Attack
Since you’re all connecting to one network, hackers have found a way to position themselves between your device and the hotspot, allowing them to eavesdrop on all your data exchange. This attack is dangerous since the hacker can intercept and steal the data you’re transmitting.
2. Rogue Wi-fi Networks
In a bid to collect more data from victims, some hackers create the dubious ‘free wi-fi’ to entice users to connect. Once you’re connected, the hackers may then read your data traffic as third parties and steal any valuable data you’re transmitting.
This makes it very risky whenever you’re transmitting any sensitive business details.
3. Snooping And Packet Sniffing
With most public wi-fi being unsecured, hackers can intercept and eavesdrop on your wi-fi signal using software kits. This means that anyone who understands how to use the software can be a hacker.
Moreover, experienced hackers can use the software to access everything you’re doing and even capture some login details in the process.
4. Malware And Adware Distribution
Public wi-fi provides hackers with the ideal environment for malware distribution. They take advantage of users who’ve turned on their file-sharing to infect computers with different malware, including spyware, worms, viruses and trojans.
Other attackers force a pop-up window on your device asking you to upgrade a software in your device. By clicking it, you install the malware.
5. Network Spoofing
Another common cyber-attack method is through network spoofing on public wi-fi. The hackers create a malicious free wi-fi hotspot that prompts users to create a username and password.
By doing this, the hackers collect those login details and try using them on different accounts, hoping they’ll hijack one account.
How To Protect Yourself When Using Public Wi-fi
There being so many risks to using public wi-fi, it’s clear that you should avoid using it. But if you can’t avoid using it, there are several things you can do to stay safe when using it.
Never share important details
Unless you’ve confirmed that the network uses a strong security protocol, never share any valuable information through public wi-fi. Information like your banking details, credit card details, passwords and business data can be easily stolen and sold via an unsecured network.
Additionally, always use a unique password when logging in to public wi-fi.
Use A VPN
Another great solution is using a virtual private network to secure your connections. A VPN provides you with a secure end-to-end private network that encrypts your data when you’re connected to the network.
It also masks your IP address, ensuring that third parties can’t track your location, or spy on your data traffic. For workers working remotely, experts advise you to use a VPN when transmitting sensitive business data, even when you’re not on public wi-fi.
Get A Good Antivirus
Besides the VPN, you should also get a good antivirus to protect your device from malicious files, apps and ads. An antivirus scans through all the files you download into your machine, getting rid of any malware or virus.
Nevertheless, some hackers have found a way to hide malware from the antivirus scanners, and so, you should only use the best antiviruses out there. To find out more about antivirus software, users are encouraged to keep abreast of news on the internet and computer security.
Turn Off Auto-connect And File Sharing
Wi-fi auto-connect may at times be the culprit attracting hackers to your devices, even when you’re not using wi-fi. Therefore, ensure that your wi-fi auto-connect is switched off at all times.
Moreover, ensure that your file-sharing feature is turned off as well. This will prevent the hacker from sending files to your device.
Public wi-fi is very convenient and reliable – that’s no secret. However, you have to gauge the risks involved and determine if it’s worth using it. If you have to use it, ensure that you’ve implemented some of the safety tips mentioned above to mitigate the risks.