It might be a good idea to take your laptop to a local coffee shop to work. It’s a total change of scenery, you can enjoy a hot drink while you work and use the free Wi-Fi. Notice anything in this picture? Tip: This is when you expose your personal information to hackers and cybercriminals.
Public Wi-Fi is just unreliable. But why is it so dangerous? And what can you do to protect yourself?
Why do people use Public WiFi?
When we talk about public Wi-Fi, we mean the networks available in public places such as trains, cafes, and supermarkets. Many cities even have free network coverage in their city centers so that citizens can stay in touch wherever they are.
On the surface, it looks great. Public Wi-Fi can be incredibly convenient when you’re on the move. If you’ve run out of mobile data or for some reason, you’ll probably look for the nearest Wi-Fi access point.
The bad news is that public Wi-Fi is also very useful for hackers.
Public Wi-Fi: Hacker’s Paradise
Public Wi-Fi is a haven for thieves, hackers, and other cybercriminals. Using various malicious methods, they can steal your passwords, personal information, and payment information via public Wi-Fi. These are just some of the dangers associated with these methods:
Malicious access points
One of the biggest problems with public Wi-Fi is that we can never know where the router is or who configured it. Just logged into your favorite coffee shop or logged into a hacker’s access point?
In busy cities and on public transport, there is a growing threat of hackers setting up malicious access points using sophisticated disguises. They are often masked with the name of a legitimate company. For example, it could be the brand of a popular coffee shop or the railway company you travel with. However, when you log in, all your data passes through an unprotected hacker system that is vulnerable to exploitation.
Wi-Fi maintenance takes many forms, but most of the time it involves hacking your Wi-Fi and spying on your data. Of course, they can use malicious access points, but they can also exploit security holes in public Wi-Fi.
When you connect to the internet in a café, you don’t know if they use modern security measures. Otherwise, the cybercriminal may already have access to his router.
Human type attacks in the center of the zone
In a man-in-the-middle attack, the attacker has access to the connection between your device and the legitimate server. As their name indicates, they can then come between you and the place where you send your data and use this position to their advantage. This can involve stealing password information or even falsifying your own data packets to be redirected to a new page.
For example, imagine using an unsecured public Wi-Fi network to connect to Facebook. A hacker may redirect you to a fake Facebook login page. Once there, you can finally reveal your password details without realizing that the site is fake.
Hackers can do a lot with malware, from accessing a phone’s camera with spyware to associating your laptop with illegal activities such as botnet attacks. Public Wi-Fi is a great way for them to install such malware on your device.
Once the connection is established, the perpetrator can use a tactician in the middle to redirect you to his malware-infected site. This allows the malware to be downloaded automatically, even if you only notice what happened much later. More treacherous hackers may even take data from a legitimate website and embed lines of its malicious code. The data then reaches you, allowing malware and viruses to penetrate your device unnoticed.
3 Ways to keep public Wi-Fi safe
- Use a VPN. The simplest and most effective way to stay secure with public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN or virtual private network. Services such as NordVPN store your data in encrypted form, regardless of the connection you use. Even if your Wi-Fi is not secure, hackers cannot access the valuable information you send or receive. One account covers up to six devices. So when you’re on the move, you can be sure your phone, laptop, and tablet are covered. You can read this overview of NordVPN at any time to find out more about the protection of your data.
- Check the available networks. If you are in a public area and choose a network to connect to, you should carefully consider all available options. If the person you’re looking for appears twice, maybe with slightly different names, it’s a red flag. In general, your chances of a password-protected Wi-Fi connection are better. If there are two identical options and one of them does not use the login procedure, it could be a malicious diversion.
- Restriction of sensitive activities on public Wi-Fi. If you do not use a VPN, it is best not to send sensitive information over public Wi-Fi. Even if the hacker has hacked into the router you are using, he won’t benefit much from your data if you just surf news sites and watch YouTube. Do not attempt to use any interface to connect to the system, online banking, or payment systems while in the public Wi-Fi system.
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