Perhaps you’ve heard once or twice that using public WiFi isn’t very safe. If you’re like most people, you regularly choose to brush off these warnings in the interest of its added convenience. For example, whenever you travel, you probably routinely connect to public WiFi at airports, hotels, stores, and restaurants.
While entirely understandable, it’s important to understand that people aren’t overreacting when they say that the use of public WiFi is extremely dangerous. Even if you’ve never experienced the dangers of it first-hand, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t real.
Take a few minutes to educate yourself about the dangers of public WiFi by reading the brief summary below. Even if circumstances are such that the use of public WiFi is unavoidable, at least you will be clear about the risks involved. You’ll also find some guidelines as to how to use public WiFi in the safest possible manner.
What are the dangers associated with the use of public WiFi?
As you go about your day, whether traveling or in your hometown, pay attention to the number of times you move from network to network. Ask yourself about your level of confidence in the service provider and your ability to report potential problems, if any. Listed below are four of the most common dangers associated with the use of public WiFi.
- Man-in-the-Middle Attacks. This type of attack occurs when a hacker positions themselves in the middle of your connection with public WiFi. Once this happens, the hacker can observe everything you do online. If you type out any sensitive data — such as bank account information or passwords — the hacker will see it.
- Evil Twin Attacks. An evil twin attack takes place when a hacker creates a fake WiFi network and makes it appear legit. For instance, if you’re at an airport and you see several WiFi networks with slightly different names such as “AirportWiFi1” and “AirportWiFi23,” it’s likely that at least one of these networks is an “evil twin” launched by a hacker. Once you connect to their WiFi network, you put the security of your data entirely at the mercy of hackers. This rarely ends well.
- Malware-Infected Networks. Some WiFi networks can be infected with various types of malware. These software bugs can then spread across all devices connected to the network. This can happen either because a hacker infected the WiFi network deliberately or because a user unknowingly connected to WiFi with malware on their device.
- Session Hijacking. Sometimes, hackers can scan all of the data stored on your device and create an exact replica. After this, they can pretend to be you and take over your browsing session. At that point, they can do whatever they want with your accounts.
How can you protect yourself from public WiFi threats?
Now that you know some of the dangers of using public WiFi, you probably want to be more cautious about how you use it. No matter its associated dangers, sometimes you simply can’t avoid using public WiFi to take care of business. Whenever you do find yourself in a situation like this, make sure you follow these safety tips.
- Use a VPN. VPN stands for virtual private network. It’s a must whenever you’re on public WiFi as it encrypts all of your data, making it impossible for hackers to read. If you use a Mac, consider getting a VPN for Mac to keep your device as safe as possible.
- Use a password manager. A password manager is an encrypted digital space where you can store all of your passwords and access them at any time. As it’s encrypted, a hacker can’t access it even if they successfully hack your device. Additionally, you can easily manage and quickly change your passwords should a security breach take place.
- Avoid transmitting sensitive data. Whenever you are on public WiFi, it’s best to avoid logging in to your bank account or other sensitive information. Try to postpone logging in to important accounts until you’re on secure and trustworthy WiFi.
- Be on the lookout for pop-ups. WiFi networks can sometimes be infected with malware that sends out infected links and pop-ups to anyone who connects to the network. To keep your device safe, never click on random pop-ups or links.
- Enable two-factor authentication. With two-factor authentication, you add an extra layer of security to your accounts. If a hacker manages to access your login information, they still won’t be able to log into your accounts. If you receive an alert about a suspicious login attempt, simply change your password and run an antivirus scan.
- Use your mobile data whenever possible. It isn’t worth risking your account security just to save up on a few megabytes of your mobile data. Use your safe mobile data whenever you can and don’t unnecessarily put your data security in jeopardy.
Using sketchy WiFi affects everyone to whom you’re connected.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the risks associated with using public WiFi. In all likelihood, you’ll probably still connect to it in the future. That’s fine, of course, but only do so when it’s absolutely necessary and you can’t make use of your mobile data.
Keep yourself and those who rely upon you safe as you move from network to network. If you spot something suspicious when you do have to use public WiFi, don’t risk connection. It’s far better to accept a slight loss in your weekly productivity than to open up all of your data — and the data of others — to the mercy of a hacker.