Cyber threats that public Wi-Fi can cause
Malware and viruses
Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network doesn’t necessarily mean that your device will be infected with a virus or other forms of malware. However, there is a high probability that this can occur. After all, it’s not too difficult for a cybercriminal to expose a public network to a virus or malware, especially if the security is pretty sloppy.
In fact, hackers may not even have to worry about the security of the Wi-Fi. They can just send phishing messages to the people working at the location offering free Wi-Fi and trick them to infect the network through malicious attachments and links. If this happens, any device that connects to the free Wi-Fi becomes exposed to viruses and malware.
Malicious hotspots can occur if a network is infected, but they can also occur when a cybercriminal sets up a hotspot in a public area.
Hackers can name it whatever they want such as `Public Wi-Fi’ or name it after a nearby coffee shop. By doing so, they can easily get innocent people to connect and then infect their device or spy on their internet activities.
Snooping and sniffing
Cybercriminals acquire special software and devices to help them with eavesdropping on Wi-Fi networks. This allows cybercriminals to gain access to all your online activities – from viewing webpages you`ve visited, stealing your login credentials up to getting access to your online accounts.
Worms are in numerous ways similar to traditional computer viruses. They differ, however, in one crucial aspect.
Computer viruses require a program to attach a virus so they can cause harm, while worm can spread viruses by themselves. A worm can jump into your device from another device connected to the same network if you don’t have proper security in place.
Lack of encryption
One of the major reasons why people cherish public Wi-Fi so much is also its main downside. Since the network does not require any password to access it, this means no encryption is included on the network.
It has been reported that 20 percent of Wi-Fi networks worldwide don’t use any form of encryption. With encryption, your information is sent between your device and the router in the form of a `secret code.’ This means hackers can hop into a network and access your information without your knowledge if the network isn’t encrypted.
7 ways on how to stay safe when using public Wi-Fi
- Turn off sharing
File sharing via a public Wi-Fi can be risky, so it would be better to disable it on your device. Turning file-sharing off will lock your connection to keep your device from sharing sensitive data.
- Use a VPN
If you must use a public Wi-Fi network, then having a reliable VPN installed and running on your device should be a top priority. A VPN will encrypt your online traffic to safeguard your data from hackers. It will ensure that cybercriminals can’t monitor your online communications even on unsecured public Wi-Fi.
The use of a VPN is highly recommended when you have to access highly sensitive data like your bank account while connected to a public Wi-Fi network.
According to VPNpro, Hotspot Shield is just the VPN solution you need. It is known for its robust protection and fast speed for streaming your favorite movies, shows, video, games and more. On top of that, you can enjoy unlimited data, no browsing activity logs, unlimited HD streaming, and military-grade encryption.
- Use SSL connections
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a security protocol that encrypts your data via the site you`re accessing.
If ever you don’t have VPN access, especially for general browsing, you can use SSL connections to add encryption to your web browsing. Enable the `Always Use HTTPS’ option on sites that you visit regularly or on sites that need you to fill some sort of credentials. This is a smart move especially when on public networks because `HTTPS’ means your data is encrypted and can’t be accessed by hackers.
- Turn off automatic connectivity
Make sure the settings on your device don’t allow it to automatically connect when it detects an open Wi-Fi. You could end up connected to a dangerous network. Turning off automatic connection ensures that your device won’t transmit data without your knowledge.
- Limit your browsing
One of the simplest ways to ensure no one can access your data over a public network is by limiting the type of browsing you do. Don’t access sensitive data like your bank account and credit card information over a public Wi-Fi network.
- Install antivirus/anti-malware
Not all anti-malware or antivirus programs are designed equal. A good and robust one can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your device free from threats. A good virus scanner should have heuristic analysis capabilities, various virus scanners and should be frequently updated with the latest malware definitions.
- Use internet security
Even people who abide by all the possible public Wi-Fi security precautions will face some issues from time to time. That’s why you need to have a robust internet security solution installed and running on your device. These security solutions can constantly run virus or malware scan on your files and all sites that you access.
Having available public Wi-Fi in many locations brings tremendous convenience to many, but this convenience does not come without some risks.
It’s easy for cybercriminals to steal your personal information, login credentials, and other data if you always use public Wi-Fi. Fortunately, there is an ever-growing arsenal of new techniques and software popping up every day that you can use to keep your information secure. The tips mentioned above are the easiest steps you can try starting now.