Public Wi-Fi can be a lifesaver in numerous situations. Maybe you’re leaving your home with no mobile data and looking for directions, or you want to leave home for a while and work your remote job from a coffee shop. Other times you may travel to a different country and have no other way to go online. Public Wi-Fi is there to help you in all of these scenarios. But using these types of Wi-Fi connections is quite dangerous, and you could expose yourself to different cyber threats.
These days hackers can purchase software kits or devices that allow them to infiltrate Wi-Fi signals and gain instant access to everything that users connected to that network are doing online. They can see the pages you visit, access the information you exchange while online, and even access your accounts by capturing your login credentials. In the worst-case scenario, they might even hijack your online session. This is made hundred times easier when the user is connected to a public Wi-Fi as these tend to be much easier to infiltrate.
While searching for public Wi-Fi, you might find a harmless and public hotspot. Still, there’s a chance that it is a rogue access point created to trick people into connecting to it and then exploiting that connection for personal information. Often these rogue access points will have the incorrect spelling of a legitimate hotspot, banking on the fact that most of us don’t pay that much attention to which network we’re connecting to.
While most private Wi-Fi connections are encrypted, public ones are usually not. There may be exceptions to this, but it is impossible to know whether or not the public Wi-Fi is encrypted, so connecting to it is always a gamble.
When the network is not encrypted, all the data that you send and receive through it can be accessed by an experienced hacker. Once they gain access, it opens up opportunities for Man in The Middle attacks and a myriad of other threats.
What Can You Do To Stay Safe?
While we generally recommend avoiding public Wi-Fi, we recognize that it is the only option sometimes. Here are some tips to remember for using the public network.
For starters, connect to a VPN before you go online. These days installing and activating a VPN connection is incredibly simple. Some even come with additional security perks like NordVPN with Threat Protection, which automatically blocks malicious websites and scans all the files you download from the web.
Another general tip would be to avoid using public Wi-Fi to access or exchange important data online and stick to less sensitive information. It is also a good idea to avoid visiting non “HTTPS” websites, especially when connected to a public Wi-Fi. “HTTPS” websites are encrypted, meaning an extra layer of security makes your browsing experience safer. Meanwhile, when you don’t see the “HTTPS” but instead there is an “HTTP” in the address line, this means that unauthorized attackers can easily access your internet traffic.
Last but not least, a universal safety tip is to keep your operating systems up to date, especially on devices you use to connect to public Wi-Fi. This way, you will know that even in the case of a breach, your device has the best available protection.
There’s no avoiding public Wi-Fi altogether, but if you implement these tips, you can be confident that even if the connection is unencrypted and dangerous, you won’t fall victim to cyber-crimes with serious real-life consequences.