Do you visit libraries, malls, cafes, and other public places? You’ve likely connected to free public Wi-Fi networks without a second thought about the dangers of public Wi-Fi. However, public Wi-Fi poses a risk to you and your sensitive information.
If you don’t use proper cybersecurity measures, hackers could easily collect information like your bank account details or personal information. From there, you could become a victim of identity theft.
This article will cover the risks public Wi-Fi pose to you and how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks.
Public Wi-Fi Risks
Malware, short for malicious software, is software designed to damage your devices and gain unauthorized access to information. Hackers can easily use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection to distribute malware.
For example, if you allow files to be shared with you while connected to an unsecured network, a hacker can put malware into that file. Hackers can also intercept the connection point between your device and the network and cause a pop-up window to appear. If you click the pop-up window, malware infects your device.
Obtaining Personal Information
Public Wi-Fi networks don’t have to host malicious actors for your information to be collected and sold. Unless you have taken measures to prevent the tracking of your devices, some networks automatically collect information from the devices connected. The information they collect can include your email address, location, and the websites you visit.
Man In The Middle Attack
A man-in-the-middle attack is when a hacker places himself in the middle of a conversation between a user and an application. He then either eavesdrops or pretends to be one of the parties. The hacker conducts a man-in-the-middle attack with the goal of stealing personal information.
Your personal information can include financial details, login credentials, and more. Once a malicious actor has your personal details, they can sell your information on the dark web or use it for identity theft.
How To Protect Yourself When Using Public Wi-Fi
Utilize A VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) connection hides your IP address and protects your data by establishing a secure, encrypted connection between your device and the internet. A secure and encrypted connection makes it difficult for malicious actors to conduct cyber attacks on you.
Use SSL Connections
SSL is short for “secure sockets layer.” Websites protect sensitive information being sent between systems using SSL connections. Be sure to click or enable the “Always Use HTTPS” option on websites that you visit.
If you’re visiting a website that requires you to log in, reconsider if you need to visit that website at that moment. Many people reuse their usernames and passwords, and just by intercepting one password, a hacker may be able to gain access to multiple accounts.
Turn Off Bluetooth And Sharing
Prevent malicious actors from being able to send you files that could contain malware or viruses by turning off file-sharing. Remember to turn off Bluetooth to prevent hackers from connecting to your device.
Don’t Open Or Send Private Information
Wait to check your bank account or send that confidential file to your boss. The more connections you make on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, the more chances you give hackers to intercept your sensitive information.
Use An Antivirus
Antivirus does not protect you from all the dangers listed in this article, but it does help protect your device from malware and viruses. It’s recommended to protect yourself and your device by using an antivirus.
Many users disable their firewall due to “connectivity” issues or wanting to download a file that the firewall is blocking. However, too many users forget to re-enable the firewall afterwards. A firewall prevents unauthorized access into or out of a computer network, which protects you from unsafe connections when using the internet. That’s why a disabled firewall could lead you to be an easy target for hackers.
If You Have An iPhone, Ensure “Private Address” Is On.
Apple’s iOS 14 update included an option to connect to Wi-Fi networks using a “private address.” A private address prevents your device’s data from being tracked and collected. Read our article for more information and how to enable “Private Address.”
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