Why you really, really need to stop using public Wi-Fi
We’ve all been there. A quick coffee break between meetings offers the opportunity to catch up on emails or tick a few tasks off your to-do list. The wealth of publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots has made working on the move easier than ever but they come with serious potential risks that you may not have considered. Personal data such as passwords, financial information or private pictures are all exposed every time you log on to a free network in a cafe, hotel or airport.
As we have discussed in previous articles, it’s important to remember that cyber theft does not only happen to large corporations. Often smaller companies can be targeted due to their lack of security. What’s more, tutorials on how to compromise public Wi-Fi are easy to come by, with many racking up millions of views. The most common method is referred to as ‘Man in the Middle’ and involves intercepting traffic between a user’s device and the destination by making the victim’s device think the hacker’s machine is the access point to the internet. Similar to this is the more sinister ‘Evil Twin’, in which a hacker boosts a Wi-Fi signal from their laptop with the same name as the hotel/cafe/other public space. When you connect to this network, the hacker can monitor all your activity.
Though antivirus protection and firewalls are essential to reducing the threat of cyber attacks, they are useless against hackers on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. In order to stay safe, security consultants recommend taking the following actions:
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop online, bank online or access other sensitive sites.
- Use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, such as Vyper VPN. This helps keep your activity encrypted by creating a network-within-a-network.
- Implement two-factor authentication on sensitive accounts. This prevents hackers from logging in to your bank, social media, email or any other site even if they have the password.
- Look out for HTTPS encryption on websites rather than the lesser protected HTTP when in public places.
- Turn off the automatic Wi-Fi connectivity feature on your phone so it won’t automatically connect to hotspots
- Monitor or turn off your Bluetooth connection when in public places to ensure others are not intercepting your data
- Buy an unlimited data plan for your phone and use that instead of Public Wi-Fi.
It is increasingly difficult to entirely remove the risk of a security breach but by taking precautions such as the above, you can greatly reduce the chances of being hacked. In the case of public Wi-Fi, the benefits of convenience simply don’t compare to the risks.
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