Free Wi-Fi is everywhere, from airports to retail shops to libraries. If you’re out of data and in a public space, chances are there’s a public network you can quickly hop on.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Many public networks lack necessary security measures, making it easier for hackers to intercept sensitive information like passwords, financial details, and personal data.
Let’s explore some of the risks users take by connecting to public Wi-Fi and ways you can protect yourself.
When you access the internet on public Wi-Fi, your information is much less secure than it is at home. With the right tools, cyber attackers can eavesdrop on this traffic, potentially intercepting sensitive data.
2. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
In a man-in-the-middle attack, a hacker intercepts communication between a user and a website. Hackers can then exploit the user’s data or eavesdrop on their activity. These kinds of attacks may happen on public networks, which are more vulnerable to such breaches.
3. Rogue Hotspots
Cybercriminals sometimes set up their own Wi-Fi hotspot and name it after nearby businesses. While seemingly free, these networks come with high costs, as cybercriminals can monitor your online activity once you connect.
5. Malware Distribution
Public Wi-Fi networks are less secure, making it easier for hackers to intercept traffic and inject malicious code into websites. These could be disguised as ads or downloads.
In 2020, there was a notable decrease in the number of malware attacks, marking the first decline since 2015. Unfortunately, malware attacks have made a comeback and now sit at 10.4 million per year, the same as in 2018.
Protecting Your Data on Public Wi-Fi
Luckily, there are effective ways you can use Public Wi-Fi and protect yourself. Let’s dive in.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
To explain VPN in a simple way, we can define it as a tool that creates a secure connection between your device and the internet, making it nearly impossible for anyone to intercept information. This ensures that even if you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network, your data is safe.
2. Turn Off Sharing
Always disable file and printer sharing on your device while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. This prevents unauthorized access to your files or devices by other users on the same network.
3. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Enabling two-factor authentication is a simple yet effective method to boost cybersecurity. This security measure requires a user to enter a code or pin sent to their email or phone, making it harder for hackers to gain access even if they have a user’s login information.
4. Update Your Software
Regularly updating software is another basic safety tip. This ensures that your device’s operating system and applications have the most up-to-date security features and bug fixes.
5. Forget the Network After Use
When you’ve finished up your work and are done using public Wi-Fi, remember to remove it from your list of saved networks. This way, your device won’t automatically connect to the network in the future without you realizing it.
Navigating the risks
For many remote workers, public Wi-Fi is essential to staying productive on the go. But it doesn’t come without its risks. Stay up-to-date on the potential risks and employ the aforementioned tips to stay safe on public networks.