Nowadays, free public WiFi can be accessed in every country and surrounding, whether it’s while boarding on airplanes, in department stores or even at coffee shops, all of which are to provide ease to internet access.
It is even safe to assume that when picking a cafe or coffee shop to work at, a customer would choose one with WiFi. By doing so, users would be able to save up to their own data usage, while also using WiFi conveniently. Nonetheless, accessing these public internet connections can be filled with risks and insecure networks that are easy to hack and breach users’ security and privacy.
Today’s we’ll explore brief examples of risks one may encounter when connecting to public WiFi, along with the needed safety precautions that should be taken.
The Risks of Public WiFi
Though convenient and cost-reducing, the use of free WiFi without any safety precautions can be an easy entry for hackers.
Some of you may already be starting to connect to more private WiFi as we speak, but let’s take a brief look into the risks that come with public connections.
1.Man in the Middle Attack
This variation is when cyberattacks take place and gain access to personal information and data through numerous entry points, whether it's photos on the internet, online shopping, mobile money transfers or even logging in to certain websites. The information provided to websites can be easily used for criminal activities, like fraud.
2.Evil Twin Method
Essentially, this variation takes regard to creating a WiFi signal with similar or identical names, tricking users to access it and providing an easy gateway for cyber attacks. An example of this would be how FREEWIFI (real name), could be duplicated as FREEWIFI 2 (fake name).
To even add layers to this trickery play, attackers could create identical website user interfaces to trick those accessing the network to provide secret, personal information. This can also be in the form of hacking private conversations and using the accessed information to start phishing scams.
How to manage risks when connecting to public networks
Risks can be avoided entirely by not connecting to public WiFi networks, but if necessary, the risks can be managed as accordingly:
1. Reaffirm with the venue in regard to the actual name of their WiFi address or choose to connect to one with a password, which could be obtained by employees of the venue. The use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) can also be a great way of mitigating risks.
2. Always check if a website’s url starts with HTTPS. Avoid connecting to networks that only start with HTTP (note the missing S). This is due to the fact that HTTPS networks are protected by passcodes. Also, constantly turn off cloud data sharing and don’t forget to log out after usage.
3. Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth accessibility functions on devices when not in use to prevent any automatic connections. Furthermore, constantly changing passcode up to 6 times per month can be a highly secure method of protecting personal information as well.
The matter of connecting to public WiFi is often looked over, but being ahead of it by raising awareness of its presence and risks is always safer.
All in all, the safest method of managing risks involved with public WiFi, is to not connect to them at all entirely.
However, if truly necessary, one could connect after reconfirming the address’ validity, while also avoiding accessing suspicious websites and filling in any form of personal information.