Who doesn’t like free Wi-Fi am I right?
We go to our libraries and our coffee shops and airports, malls, restaurants and hotels and heck we’ll even connect when we stop in for bread and milk at Walmart and if there isn’t free Wi-Fi at our favorite spot we complain.
It’s 2018 for goodness sakes who doesn’t offer Public Wi-Fi right?
We are headed in the right direction though there are major cities that now offer city-wide Wi-Fi service or at least in the downtown areas for free a few cities that come to mind is… San Francisco, New York City & Boston, of course, there are many more, but you get the point.
But, even though this is a much-needed service in our society because we depend on Wi-Fi for so much in our daily lives it comes with known and unknown risks that the general public may not know about.
What are these risks?
Well ask yourself cybercrime is so prevalent in today’s society they are coming up with ways to scam us, steal from us & hurt us in ways we never thought possible and the sad thing is we kind of let this happen and gave growth to this malicious behavior because we didn’t practice good policies, or we weren’t informed or educated enough on these matters and these cyberthugs took advantage of the opportunity.
We must start somewhere to be able to close these loopholes that cyberthugs use against us. That’s where being informed and education comes in… Do some research before connecting to a potentially unsafe Wi-Fi.
Now you may be asking yourself why don’t the companies or cities that offer Wi-Fi protect you or give you the security to protect yourself. The answer is simple they can’t protect against everything they offer at best minimum-security protocols and rely on the end-user to protect themselves.
That’s the problem when it comes down to human behavior and human error we are always going to fail people are too apathetic today and they couldn’t care less that their actions can cause trouble to others around them.
I know that’s a cynical outlook and pretty negative outlook on human nature but it’s true.
These companies and cities that offer this free service don’t inform you about safe usage so what should you be doing to protect yourself and what are you protecting yourself from? Let’s dive into some known risks of public Wi-Fi usage and then I’ll give you some tips and good information on how to protect yourself further.
Known Security Risks
The most common threat people face while using public Wi-Fi is what’s known as the “The Man in the Middle Attack (MiTM). This threat is executed by spying on what you are doing on your device as you are doing it these attacks use special programs sometimes called “sniffers” and what they do is “sniff” out the data that you are sending and receiving through the network you are on. Imagine you are sitting over my shoulder right now and reading as I am typing this that is what a MiTM attack is. These programs allow the hackers/attackers to view the information and even save it for future use. For more detailed information on this attack visit:
Next, we have: Unpatched Security holes or vulnerabilities…
If you are using a public Wi-Fi network that hasn’t fully secured their networks, then you are subjecting yourself to potential malicious action by getting malware or worse ransomware on your device and you wouldn’t even know it was happening until it’s too late. For information on this see this site:
Finally, but not the only risks out there is connecting to a malicious network.
You are out and about and wanting to download some music or what have you, so you stop at this local place and see it has free Wi-Fi… Great! So, you connect to it and BAM! Your device starts flashing messages and becomes unresponsive and you realize that you have just been hit by a cryptolocker Ransomware you are fuming, and you go to give the owner a piece of your mind… The owner says I don’t know what you’re talking about [insert business name here] doesn’t offer Wi-Fi service… But you connected to a Wi-Fi network with the business name on it. This is what’s known as a rogue network a network that was setup by some cyberthugs pretending to be a business nearby just to trap people like you. For more information on this type of attack/risk see this page:
So, those are some of the most common ways people get themselves into trouble while connecting to a “Free Public Wi-Fi” knowing this information now and thinking back could you have been a victim of an attack and not even know it? Will you be more cautious now when connecting to a public Wi-Fi?
What can you do to help protect yourself and avoid some of these risks? Read on!
First things first, you should always be aware of your surroundings know who is around you and try to be aware of any suspicious activity the guy/girl sitting next to you could be planning an attack without you knowing about it.
Know the network you are connecting to. Ask the manager or the person in charge of that network questions about the network ask them if it is secured and updated and it is in fact their network.
Other good habits to have…
Don’t auto connect to open Wi-Fi networks
Don’t leave your Wi-Fi/Bluetooth on when you are not using it.
Don’t access sensitive or private information on an open network (i.e. bank accounts)
Don’t connect to a network that has no password.
Finally, log out of all sites/services when you are done using the Public Wi-Fi network.
Now that you are informed and educated on the risks of connecting to a Public Wi-Fi what can you do besides practicing these good habits mentioned… Next in the hope to gaining a safe and secure connection is… Yep software!
There are many security companies out there and they are all slinging their wares everyone trying to make a buck so with so many options out there how can you tell what is a safe company to use and what software do you need exactly….
Well, first off you should of course do your due diligence research the company before doing business with them. Check their stats and reviews and see what other people think a lot of companies will push out software claiming to improve your speed, optimize your device and/or protect it from malicious activity. Depending on what device you have you may want an Antivirus program like Emsisoft & standalone malware scanner like MalwareBytes. But one of the most crucial tools you can use is what’s known as a VPN (Virtual Private Network) this software will help protect you while you are on a public/open network.
A VPN will basically give you like a “tunnel” directly to the source of your online destination and this is important because while using an active VPN all your information being sent and received by you will be encrypted meaning that there is no chance for a MiTM attack. Of course, nothing is 100% fool proof, but you are a lot safer using it than not.
I asked a fellow IT Tech (and a talented and skilled photographer) about what he thought about VPN’s and this is what he had to say, and he gave a few resources that you can read up on to get familiar with the use of a VPN.
“Internet is like a digital jungle where hackers can steal your sensitive information.
You are even more at risk when connecting to public networks. This is where VPN comes in.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, allow users to securely access and share data through internet and public networks.
Much like a firewall, VPNs protects your information. Below are a few articles that you should consider reading which will give you more information as to why you should use one.
I personally use Nord VPN and have been very happy with it.
Thank you for reading,
Roman basically nailed it and summed up everything you need to know for basic usage. Be sure to check out those links he supplied for more information.
VPN’s aren’t just for public/open networks either they can be used in your everyday computer/device usage to maintain your privacy on the internet.
So, with all that said I hope you have gained some valuable information on this topic if you liked it be sure to share it with a friend that might find it useful and comment on any additional suggestions you may have or your own thoughts on the matter.
Until Next Time….
Stay Safe & Secure!
2 Replies to “Internet Security: The Risks of using Public Wi-Fi”
So these are really simple tips tha ti never thought of. I think we have all bee a little remiss at one time or another about securing our devices. This was a good reminder. I really look forward to hearing more from you guys. I wonder if you could recommend a good vpn if you have to connect to the wifi at work because they are really nosy and I am not sure if they are super secure either. Peferable OSX.
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Hi, Regg Glad, you enjoyed it and to answer your question, yes We use and recommend NORD VPN it’s a great service and top notch customer service you’ll find a link above in the quoted segment of the post. Cheers!