Public Wi-Fi may seem like a convenient solution while you are away from your office or remote working space, but it can also put your sensitive data at risk. Learn the common risks of using public Wi-Fi and tips on how to best keep your data safe no matter where you are.
Common Risks of Public Wi-Fi
One of the most common and dangerous cyber threats on public Wi-Fi networks is known as man-in-the-middle attacks. When you access the internet via Wi-Fi, your device will establish a link with the public router or server that enables connection.
A man-in-the-middle attack (MiTM) occurs when a hacker positions themselves in a conversation between a user and an application to basically eavesdrop on your activity or impersonate one of the parties to make it seem as if the exchange of information is completely normal. This is an easy way for cyber criminals to steal a variety of private data such as login credentials, account details and credit card numbers, often resulting in fraudulent activity.
Malware infections are another common avenue of attack on users who are utilizing public Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can infect unsecured Wi-Fi connections with malware, leading to further infections of the devices that connect to that network. This is often caused by software vulnerabilities that cyber criminals can easily target. Once the malware has infected a device, hackers can quickly gain access to sensitive information and can even make your device inoperable. Malware is silent but deadly, and users will likely be unaware of infection until it is too late.
The act of Wi-Fi snooping is exactly what it sounds like and is surprisingly easy for hackers to pull off. Any cyber criminal can easily download special software kits to see what users are doing while using public Wi-Fi. In this instance, the attack won’t be on your phone itself, the cyber criminal will be after the data and information that you are sharing while on the Wi-Fi network. Anything from reading your browser history to viewing whole web pages you’ve visited, hijacking online sessions, and seeing any information you may have inputted while online is possible once the hacker has successfully gained access to your device through Wi-Fi snooping.
Many cyber criminals often operate on legit Wi-Fi hotspots that are created to trick victims into connecting to what they believe is a real network. For example, a hacker will often choose to name their unsecured hotspot after a nearby reputable business, such as a local café, hotel or restaurant that users may connect to, completely unaware of any potential danger.
The best way to protect yourself from malicious hotspots is to ask employees of the business you are visiting if the Wi-Fi hotspot is legitimate. However, there could even be scenarios where the employees themselves do not know if a hotspot is malicious. For this reason, it is always better to be safe than sorry when there is a public Wi-Fi network in question.
Tips to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
Avoid Accessing Sensitive Data
If you choose to access a public Wi-Fi network, we recommend to never accessing sensitive information or accounts while on the network. There are certain situations where using public Wi-Fi may be necessary, such as using Google to find directions to your next destination or searching for nearby convenience stores if you are out of town. However, if you need to pay a bill or do some online shopping, wait until you get back home or can access a trusted Wi-Fi network that is secured.
Use a VPN
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the best ways to avoid the dangers of public Wi-Fi networks. When you use a VPN on public Wi-Fi, you are accessing a private network that contains an extra layer of protection to your connection. While there are free options out there, it is recommended to purchase a VPN from a trusted provider to gain access to the best security features and have peace of mind knowing that your data is safe.
Adjust Your Connection Settings
Most devices today have a setting that allows your device to automatically connect to available public Wi-Fi networks. Users can easily disable this setting to prevent their devices from auto-connecting.
BrightLink Technology provides comprehensive data backup and IT security services for businesses in Jacksonville, FL. We can help your business fortify its computers, networks, and data with antivirus and malware software, onsite storage and cloud backup solutions, remote monitoring, and more.