Have you ever used public Wi-Fi? At your nearest Starbucks or a hotel you recently spent a few nights in? Chances are, you have. While Wi-Fi is considered to be one of the greatest technological advancements of our time, it comes with its disadvantages, especially in the case of public Wi-Fi.
It is not uncommon to see various public places like restaurants, hotels, public parks etc. offering free Wi-Fi to their visitors. In fact, you might be let down if any of those places mentioned above do not offer that service in the current scenario. While accessing the internet remotely and on the go, is great for convenience, people often underestimate the dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks.
The primary problem with public Wi-Fi is that it almost never takes security into consideration when being set up. Owners of these public places often think about it as a service but do not think about the risks associated with it for the users.
Why is public Wi-Fi unsafe?
Encryption is the process of converting the message sent through a network into a secret code that can only understood by someone who has the key to do so. If a network is set up by an IT professional, chances are that encryption has been enabled. If the network isn’t encrypted, it can lead to access from unwanted sources who can often misuse the network and do harm.
Hackers can secretly slip malware into your systems through these public networks. This is often due to loopholes in software security and operating systems. It becomes very easy for hackers to transfer this malware through a public network as it is easy to access and often not secure.
Malicious hotspots are Wi-Fi networks set up by hackers to transfer malicious files to your systems. Imagine you walk into a Starbucks and while trying to connect to the Wi-Fi, you notice that there are two Wi-Fi networks with the name Starbucks in it. Most people often just connect to the first one they see which may very well be a malicious hotspot set up by hackers to steal information. Read this story about how hackers targeted the Rio Olympics through malicious hotspots.
Snooping and Sniffing
Just as the name suggests, hackers and cybercriminals can buy special software programs and devices to essential eavesdrop on Wi-Fi networks. This allows them to see exactly what you’re doing including any login credentials or financial information you may have typed in and can often hijack accounts as well.
Some points to keep in mind when using public Wi-Fi
- Ideally, visit websites using HTTPS as it adds a layer of security.
- Do not leave your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on when not in use. You never know who connects to your device.
- Visit websites instead of using apps specially for something like banking. Websites of this nature almost definitely use HTTPS which improves security.
- Always log out of accounts when you’re done using them.
- Try to stay away from networks that aren’t password protected.
As you can see, there are various risks associated with using public Wi-Fi. You must always be mindful of these risks as they can lead to serious attacks and theft of important and sensitive information.