Risks Of Public Wi-Fi
We, humans, are simple species. Whenever we are offered something for free, we latch onto it as quickly as we can. It can be food, money or even data. It wasn’t long ago when people weren’t data-hungry.
Nowadays, there is an extremely high demand for the internet. Due to the flexible nature of work, people not only work in the office but in multiple public places like malls, cafe, and libraries. People while traveling use free internet at train stations and airports to surf the internet or complete their work.
Free Wi-fi – A boon or a curse
The convenience of these public “hotspots” has been a boon for the start-up culture, travelers, group studies, on-the-go internet access etc. While, it seems harmless while connecting to a public Wi-Fi and checking your social media feed or news or even booking a ticket, but by doing so we put our privacy at huge risk.
We have various serious risks to come at this time and we would like share some of the major risks factor with our readers.
Common Risks of Public Wi-Fi
- Man in the Middle (MITM) – It is said to be the most common risk while using a public hotspot. Here, the hacker places himself in between you and the server.
When he establishes himself, he can read and even modify the data you send to the endpoint.
- Malware Distribution – Public hotspots or wi-fi aren’t fully encrypted or secured with passwords, there is very limited security. This enables the hackers to send unlimited malware, spam, .exe files, and pop-ups. If the user unknowingly clicks on any of them, their system is infected and potential system malfunction occurs.
- Spying/ Snooping – Cyber-criminals can also engage in targeted spying on a particular individual or a group. They use advanced spying software or apps that can trace your online activities. Through which, they can get access to our files, history or searches, inclinations which might be misused for various unethical purposes. They also use phishing websites and lure users to log in and gain important credentials.
- No Encryption – It is a lock on the message which is sent from your system to the end-user/ router. To read the message we need to decipher it using a key. Most routers have their encryption turned off when they are deployed. In the case of public Wi-Fi, the user cannot determine if the encryption is on. Hence, if we share some sensitive data, there is a high chance it might result in a data breach.
- Worms – Just like a virus, worms can create misery for anyone. Unlike malware and viruses, worms do not require an active host and run their malicious activity without anyone’s notice. While using public Wi-Fi worms can travel one system to another which is connected on a network.
There are many ways we can ward off any potential attack while using Public Wi-Fi. Below are a few ways we can protect your system.
- Always disable file sharing. Whenever we connect to a Wi-Fi, a message pop up about file sharing. We can always disable them from the control panel.
- Enable two-factor authentication for all your accounts. This add extra security layer and avoid unauthorized access. You should always use strong and different passwords all the accounts. if you are not good at remembering passwords then, you can use a legitimate password manager tool.
- If the system or devices or smartphones is open and Wi-Fi is not in-use, then close it. There are many open, unprotected Wi-Fi which automatically connects to systems.
- Always check the site authenticity by the lock sign along with the website address, ans the website should start with HTTPS instead of HTTP. This means the site is SSL certified and connection to this site is secure and encrypted.
- Always log out your account while using public Wi-Fi. The credentials are safe if the session ends.
- Always use Virtual Private Network (VPN). They create a private and secure connection to another network. Whatever data is sent to and from the user’s system is safe as the private connection is established. With the help of VPN, malicious activities like snooping are kept under check and the potential risk of a data breach becomes very low.
- Disable your Wi-Fi from auto-connect mode. This might risk to insecure connection.
- Never log in to social media, bank accounts or any other legitimate account while using public Wi-Fi. Always use an app-based login. If you need to do so, then use a VPN on your phone.
- Never log on a system or a connection that isn’t password protected.
- Don’t initiate purchases or payment as your card information might be at risk. The same goes for sensitive medical information.
- Do not click at the unnecessary pop-up and ads while browsing through a Public Wi-Fi, they are likely a source of malware.
People must use Public Wi-Fi judiciously and be extra cautious. Many young individuals, such as students use them either for studies or surfing but don’t know the risk involved. There must be an awareness developed among people about data theft and malware which are the by-product of Public Wi-Fi. The above tips can help anyone to tackle any risks.