Today’s digital age has enforced the need for having an active internet connection non-stop. Everyone wants to be able to check their emails and scroll through the news on the go.
Sometimes, especially if you’re traveling abroad, having an accessible Wi-Fi connection is a must. Plus, purchasing international data is extremely expensive.
While public Wi-Fi connections are awesome because they’re accessible and free-of-charge, they also come with an extensive set of risks.
Basically, these hotspots are a breeding ground for hackers who can’t wait to penetrate unknowing victims’ devices and steal their data.
Luckily, we know exactly what potential threats are, which we’ll talk about in this article. Of course, we’ll also supply you with useful tips and tricks on how to protect your devices when using public Wi-Fi.
What Is Public Wi-Fi?
As the name suggests, public Wi-Fi is basically an internet hotspot that is found in public places – airports, parks, shopping malls, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, universities, etc.
Usually, these hotspots are open and password-free, but this rule doesn’t apply to all public Wi-Fi connections.
Public Wi-Fi hotspots host dozens of users on the same network, which is precisely why it’s so interesting and potentially lucrative for hackers.
Because these networks aren’t as secure as private connections, the risk of exploitation is massive. Let’s learn more about that.
What Are the Dangers and Risks Associated with Using Public Wi-Fi?
As we have briefly touched on before, Wi-Fi hotspots have an outstanding earning potential for hackers since they host dozens, if not hundreds of users simultaneously. Hackers and other malicious actors are notorious for data and identity theft.
More recently, they’ve started employing various types of ransomware to coerce their customers into paying hefty ransom fees.
They employ different methods to achieve these goals, which we’ll cover below:
This is one of the most common hacking methods, especially for public Wi-Fi users. It’s a form of spying on the target device without the victim’s knowledge.
When your PC makes a connection to the internet, data is always sent from point A to point B. In MitM attacks, hackers slide their way in between these data transfers to exploit the user.
Malware is another common way to access victims’ systems.
Because most systems are vulnerable, hackers are able to write dedicated code that has the power to exploit these systems. And, they can use public Wi-Fi to deliver this code.
Snooping and Packet Sniffing
This employs the usage of special kits that enables malicious actors to spy on the victim’s device. The snooping technique allows them to see all your online activities – browsing, search results, typing in login credentials, etc.
4 Public Wi-Fi Security Tips
Even though cyberattacks and data breaches have been on the rise, that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to be hacked.
If you employ certain preventative measures, you’ll be able to surf the web anywhere safely. Here are some of our expert-vetted tips on how to use public Wi-Fi and minimize the risk of exploitation:
Use a VPN
VPN is probably the best tool you can use to protect your devices when connected to public Wi-Fi. A VPN stands for VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK, and it’s basically a shield that protects your internet connection from any unauthorized, third-party access.
It’s an amazing privacy tool that should be a part of everyone’s cybersecurity arsenal.
It encrypts all user traffic, so even if a hacker managed to penetrate your systems, they wouldn’t be able to read and use any of your data.
You can always start your cybersecurity journey by opting for a VPN free trial. Then I would recommend you to opt for any of these 10 premium VPN services.
Only Visit HTTPS Websites
HTTPS is an internet communication protocol that is much secure compared to the traditional HTTP protocol.
While HTTPS doesn’t guarantee full security, it is still much more reliable compared to older protocols. It employs strong encryption so that third-parties can’t intercept and steal the users’ data.
Disable File Sharing
Most devices have dedicated public network settings that ensure that no files and folders are being shared or open to third-party access.
Obviously, by enabling file sharing when connected to public Wi-Fi, you’re potentially allowing hackers to inject malware and ransomware into your PC.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, either disable it manually or enable public network settings.
Log Out of Important Accounts
If you use a VPN, this isn’t going to be necessary. However, we recommend doing it regardless because it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
If hackers manage to access your computer or a mobile device through public Wi-Fi, ensuring that you’re logged out of important accounts will save you a lot of headaches and potential lawsuits in the long run.