Imagine this. It’s a Sunday afternoon, you are hanging with your friends at a cafe, and catching the free wifi to complete the task that you couldn’t quite get to during your busy week. Sounds familiar? Did you know public wifi comes with risk? Malicious attacks through public wifi can result in your data being stolen, whether it’s a social media account, email, or credit card information.
What is public WiFi?
Public wifi is available in high-traffic areas, such as airports, shopping malls, cafes, hotels, and resorts. It enables users to access the free internet and often need no login credentials. The public wifi is widespread and common that people frequently connect to them without thinking twice. However, warnings and efforts to educate still make many people browse and download applications.
What are the risks?
There is a tremendous amount of risk associated with public wifi. While business owners may believe they are providing an engaging experience to their customers by offering free wifi, an attacker takes advantage of this free service by inserting himself between the victim’s communication and hotspot to steal and modify the data.
Man-in-the-middle attacks are the most common and the oldest forms of eavesdropping in which an attacker intercepts the communication between the two parties to steal login credentials, personal information, or financial details. This could be through interfering with the public wifi network because it is easy to crack. This attack exploits the real-time processing of transactions, conversation, and personal information.
Encryption implies that the information passing between the two parties is fully secured and unable to access the third party. Open wifi are unencrypted, that means, anyone can see the data you send. When you connect to the public wifi at the coffee shop, don’t do your online banking or anything sensitive. The open nature of the public wifi invites attackers to steal the information with minimal efforts.
Cyber attackers have several ways to sip malware onto your system. A software vulnerability is a weakness present in your operating system. Attackers can easily exploit this weakness by writing a code to target the specific vulnerability and deliver the malware onto your computer.
It is pretty easy for hackers to hack the system on a public wifi connection with no protection. They can read your emails, usernames, and even steal your banking credentials. Often, hackers buy special software kits that enable them to access everything you are doing using public wifi.
There are wireless access points that are not part of the network. They will look like legit hotspots, but they are not. For example, you are staying at the hotel “Forest”, and you want to connect to the hotel’s wifi. You may think you are selecting the trusted wifi of the hotel, but you haven’t. Instead, you are connected with the malicious hotspot, which is set up by the hackers.
How to Stay Safe When Using Public WiFi
They say, freedom comes with free. Public wifi users are at risk from hackers, but fortunately, there are safeguards against them. Always use a Virtual Private Network when accessing the public wifi. Along with that, consider the things that we have mentioned below when connecting with public wifi.
- Allows your wifi to auto-connect mode.
- Logged to the apps that contain sensitive information.
- Leave your wifi and Bluetooth on when you are not using it.
- Off the file sharing option.
- Log out bank accounts.
- Enable your firewall
- Use a VPN.