Public Wi-Fi is all around us as we go about our daily lives. But how safe is it? The truth is, it’s not safe. Free internet sounds nice, but there’s a toss-up because your data is essentially up for grabs.
Even the most well-known businesses that offer public Wi-Fi are not necessarily monitoring its security. Here are a few common threats that can occur:
- Unencrypted networks. Encryption is vital when it comes to protecting your data. When encryption is on, information sent from your computer to a wireless router is coded, and you need a special key to decipher that code. On public Wi-Fi, there is no guarantee encryption is set up.
- Rogue Wi-Fi hotspots. These tricky, malicious wireless networks can show up looking like real networks. They mimic the name of the restaurant, hotel, airport or other location, but they are set up by cybercriminals who can now gain access to your sensitive information.
- Man-in-the-Middle attacks. MitM attacks occur when a hacker gets in between your computer and the website(s) you are visiting. It’s like cyber-eavesdropping.
- Malware. When on public Wi-Fi, it is much easier for cybercriminals to input malware on your device because they can target software vulnerabilities.
The good news is there are a number of ways you can protect yourself from threats like these. The next time you go to access public Wi-Fi during a layover, at your local Starbucks, or wherever life takes you, here are five tips to consider:
- Don’t log in to bank accounts. For accounts that offer access to money or important personal information, we recommend waiting until you are safely connected to private Wi-Fi. This eliminates a hacker’s ability to view your data.
- Turn off internet and Bluetooth auto-connections. Go to your wireless internet settings and make sure your computer or device does not auto-connect to the nearest Wi-Fi network. This is vital when traveling and using your mobile device or smartphone, as these typically automatically connect.
- Access accounts online versus an app. If you have to access sensitive information via a public network, do so online and triple check the network you are using, ensuring it is a legitimate network versus a malicious one. Check the URL for HTTPS (the “S” is vital as it ensures the page is secured). And be sure to log out of any accounts so hackers cannot access the information once you’re done.
- Use a VPN. This turns your public connection to private by encrypting data.
- Use multi-factor authentication. Learn more about this here.
Questions about how to protect your data over public Wi-Fi? Contact us.