In modern-day times, anything that shouts free is up for grabs very fast and this applies to free Wi-Fi too. Have you noticed that every corner coffee shop, airport lounge, bookstore, or co-working space with free Wi-Fi never misses a few people working away on their laptops? Half the people who own mobile phones, tablets, or laptops have all at one time used public Wi-Fi. This is all thanks to the free Wi-Fi offered there – which is just a password away from connection and the owners of the premises are ready to give it. In hindsight, there is a not so a good side to it, lets delve into detail on why you should avoid free Wi-Fi hotspot.
Risks of free Wi-Fi Hotspot
As easy as it was to connect to the free Wi-Fi in any public place like a hotel or coffee shop, so is it for malicious users to get through the network and cause damage. Either way, you can easily acquire malware on your device completely unaware. Below we highlight, in detail, the most common risks associated with using public Wi-Fi.
- Theft of personal information. The third party may easily get to your personal data, login credentials, and financial information simply by accessing your IP address that enables them to get to that data from your device. A lot is stored and saved up on our mobile devices from banking apps to social media accounts. All these pose a risk of theft of information through using an unsecured network.
- Cyber attacks on businesses. Ever wondered how websites are easily hacked? It’s is through such loopholes and it’s as easy as connecting to a public hotspot that is not secured. The hacker gets to business websites and accesses whatever information they want. They may sell that data to third and fourth parties and use it to their advantage.
- Malware distribution. All forms of malware like viruses, adware, worms, and Trojan horses are easily distributed to the person’s mobile device. This is as simple as innocently clicking a pop-up application that appears on your desktop, unknown to you it is has hidden commands. The above collect all the data keyed into your device, making it accessible to the hacker. The risk is even greater if your device is not protected by effective security and anti-malware products.
- Man in the middle attacks. For example, there was a business you were conducting with a client through public Wi-Fi. The hacker easily intercepts the data sent or on the websites and they go ahead and do interaction or send the client similar ideas after accessing the information from your device.
- Unencrypted connection. There is no secure end-to-end encryption of the network and data. This means communication, files, and other information can easily be accessed by a cybercriminal such as health care records or financial records.
- Packet sniffing and eavesdropping. Conversations, deals, and transactions are easily monitored by cybercriminals through the info they have accessed from your device. This way, they can easily monitor your life and next move. You don’t want that.
The good news is that there is always a solution to every problem in this world. Can public Wi-Fi be safely used with a VPN? Yes, it is possible but with the use of a well-known and efficient VPN service. A public Wi-Fi VPN works by hiding your IP address which is otherwise exposed while using public Wi-Fi without a VPN. With the use of a VPN, in this case, they can only see the VPN IP address. It encrypts your passwords and any other sensitive information sent over the internet. This still gives us the pointer on why you should avoid free Wi-Fi hotspot unless it’s secured by a VPN.
13 Ways to protect yourself while using free Wi-Fi hotspots
- Avoid sharing anything private and confidential or logging on to sensitive websites like banking applications and government portals.
- Browse to the minimum and disconnect immediately you are done to find whatever you wanted.
- As we highlighted above, use a reliable VPN service. It encrypts everything you send or receive as you use the free Wi-Fi hence protecting your data from any cybercriminals around.
- Use 2-factor authentication(2FA) to log in to sites if necessary. This secondary authentication method works along with user names and passwords through Google authentication via a smartphone. It sends a unique code through the text message that verifies the one logging in.
- Avoid the use of free Wi-Fi if necessary. Instead, use cellular data or a mobile hotspot. This protects you from all the risks stated above If you are accessing websites that require the input of sensitive information such as online banking, social media sites, and credit card information.
- Do not let your guard down. Always put to thought the risks involved in using free public Wi-Fi and what you may lose. Even though some public Wi-Fi are very fast most of them are unsecured network.
- Never connect to any unrecognized or unknown wireless access points. They could be just setups by a cybercriminal network to capture data and information from innocent users.
- Always verify the legit wireless connection. Some users will set up a connection similar to that of the coffee shop or bookstore, with just a slight difference that is quite unnoticeable. Be keen and if in doubt, confirm with the employee or assistant at the premises for the legitimate network and IP address.
- Disable your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if you are not using them.
- Deactivate file sharing from your device.
- Always log out of accounts after you are done using them.
- Do not log on to a network that is not password protected.
- Only use websites that use HTTPS.
If at all you use public Wi-Fi frequently ensure your devices have been secured with an efficient antivirus that is updated, always.
The use of public Wi-Fi comes in handy when one cannot access cellular data or they are in need of some information from the internet real quick. Precautions should always come first, especially for spaces where the network may not be so secured, or, there are cybercriminals parking to get to other people’s information. Better safe than sorry.