Danger of Using Public WiFi
WiFi users are at risk from hackers, but fortunately there are safeguards against them. The recent explosion of free, public WiFi has been an enormous boon for working professionals. Since these free access points are available at restaurants, hotels, airports, bookstores, and even random retail outlets, you are rarely more than a short trip away from access to your network, and your work. This freedom comes at a price, though, and few truly understand the public WiFi risks associated with these connections.
Along with convenience for the public, public WiFi hotspots can also provide an easy way for identity thieves and cybercriminals to monitor what you’re doing online and to steal your passwords, your personal information, or both. Never assume that a public WiFi network is safe or secure. Remember, these passwords are shared, so anyone nearby can easily hop onto the network and see what you’re doing.
Tips & Advice:
Risks of Using Public WiFi:
Today many, if not most, people carry some form of Internet-enabled device with them, whether it is a phone, laptop, tablet or some other technology. To get online, and avoid extra expenses by using a cellular connection, However, there are many potential risks involved in using public Wi-Fi. Users are often not aware of exactly whose network they are joining, what data they are sharing or how they may be subject to a cyber attack.
Whose network you are joining?
Anyone can set up a wireless hotspot and name it as they wish. By setting their own network name (Service Set Identifier or SSID) to a common or commercially used SSID, someone running a rogue hotspot can attract connections from users who think they are joining a legitimate network. Some devices will automatically join networks with familiar SSIDs.
Which networks are safe
It is safest to assume that no public WiFi is secure. Airports are particularly risky locations due to the high concentration of targets that may not have access to a domestic cellular network and may have an urgent need to get online. Need often outweighs any perceived risk.
What are you agreeing to?
If you are asked to accept terms and conditions, ensure you read exactly what you are agreeing to. You may be agreeing to share more with your WiFi supplier than you think.
What data are you sharing?
Any encrypted data sent through a WiFi network can be monitored and collected. You may be potentially giving away information such as passwords, email content and web searches.
Risk & Attacks:
Rogue WiFi Networks:
An attacker set up a honeypot in the form of a free WiFi hotspot in order to harvest valuable data. The attacker’s hotspot becomes the conduit for all data exchanged over the network.
Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attacks:
An attacker compromises a WiFi hotspot in order to insert himself into the communications between the victim and the hotspot, to intercept and modify the data in transit.
An attacker monitors and intercepts unencrypted data as it travels across an unprotected network.
Anyone Can be an Attacker:
The tools required to carry out such an attack can often be easily obtained, therefore an attacker requires little technical experience or skill to carry out his criminal activities.
Data is a Valuable Commodity:
Attackers can monetise many types of stolen data and therefore they seek information such as online banking credentials, Bitcoin wallets and other sensitive data that can be used in identify fraud.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep
your data encrypted in transit. They are quick
and easy to use while providing you
with privacy and safety.
- Enable your firewall.
- Look out for HTTPS in your browser bar – this
indicates that SSL encryption is active and
your communication is more likely to be secure.
- Turn off the automatic connection feature within
the Wi-Fi settings to prevent your device from
connecting to public or open Wi-Fi networks
without your consent.
- Keep your software patched and updated
- Use anti-virus software and ensure it is up-to-date
- Assume that a Wi-Fi network with a trustworthy SSID is genuine.
- Share sensitive or personal data over a public Wi-Fi network unless you are sure the connection is secure. i.e. encrypted via HTTPS or a VPN.
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