Learn how to use public wifi safely and securely, covering the hazards and solutions for keeping yourself and your information safe and secure on public networks.
Even in an era where public wifi is common, connecting to a free network while on the go may appear to be like striking gold. You are free to browse, watch, and download as much as you like without worrying about being charged for data overage. On the other hand, public wifi is not completely risk-free, and these networks may prove to be a perfect hiding place for hackers.
As a result of connecting to public wifi, you put yourself at risk for a number of targeted and random hazards, including phishing attacks and other forms of man-in-the-middle assaults. On the other hand, not all of the news is bad. It is possible to make use of public wifi while being safe and secure with a little common sense and a little knowledge.
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The dangers of public wifi will be discussed in detail in this essay, as well as various practical suggestions to help you avoid the hazards.
The dangers of using public wifi networks
While public wifi networks appear to be secure, they can give a plethora of opportunities for hackers and cybercriminals to intercept and manipulate your internet data. This gives them the ability to analyze your personal information, seize control of your accounts, and steal files for the purpose of extortion, to name a few possibilities.
Scams that can be carried out on public wifi networks include the following, which are some of the most common:
Attacks by a Man-in-the-Middle (Middle Man) (MITM)
When your data is intercepted by a third party, this is referred to as a MITM attack. In order to follow your activity, a cyber thief can breach an existing public wifi network or create their own spoof network using a variety of methods. The ability to access your login credentials and personal information as well as the ability to install malware on your device may result as result from this.
Phishing tactics are used.
Typically, phishing strategies involve fraudsters tricking their victims into disclosing personal information about themselves. They often work by referring visitors to phishing sites, which are fictitious websites that look to be authentic from the outside world. Although these scams are often carried out via email, text message, or phone call, fraudulent links known as phishing links can appear nearly everywhere on the internet.
When it comes to public wifi, hackers can fool you into clicking on phishing links and giving your login credentials as well as other personal information about yourself. These could appear to be sign-in pages for a fake network, and they could be. They may even utilize the information acquired to launch a more targeted phishing attack, known as spear phishing, using the information gathered.
DNS spoofing is a type of cybercrime.
Spamming the Domain Name System (DNS) and redirecting internet traffic is referred to as “DNS spoofing.” It can be used to redirect people to malicious websites or to perform distributed denial-of-service attacks against a network of computer systems. You could end yourself to a phishing website, or your device could become a part of an illegal botnet without even realizing what’s happening.
How to use public wifi in a safe and secure manner
Now that you’re aware of some of the risks, you’re undoubtedly interested in learning more about how to protect yourself and your information when using public wifi networks. Precautions to ensure your online safety are listed below, and you should use them whenever possible:
- Self-education and common sense are essential.
- Find a secure network and try to connect to it.
- Only trustworthy websites should be visited.
- It is best not to send any confidential information.
- Disable the wireless network connection on your device.
- Disable the device sharing settings on your computer.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN).
- Enable your firewall if it is required to do so.
- Maintain the most up-to-date version of your program on your computer.
- Take a closer look at each of these in further detail.
First and foremost, educate yourself and use solid judgment.
Being aware of the threats is one of the most efficient ways to defend against any form of cyberattack. It is far more likely that you will be successful in stopping an attack if you anticipate it and are familiar with the strategies used by the criminals.
Continue to educate yourself by reading blogs such as this one and talking about potential dangers with friends and family. The more the general public’s awareness of these types of crimes, the less likely it is that criminals will succeed in their attempts.
- Look for a network that is secure.
Do you get a kick out of discovering new networks that don’t require you to provide any login information? While this may result in a tiny reduction in the amount of time it takes to connect, this is not a good sign for security in any way.
For starters, hackers are more likely to lurk in unprotected networks because they are more likely to want to conceal their device or identity when they are doing so. Second, it is possible that an unprotected network was set up by a criminal. Historically, hackers have been known to set up their own networks, frequently naming them after places that are close to their current location. Suppose they call one of their networks “Starbucks123,” leading you to believe it is provided by the well-known coffee house.
Even if they have the time to do so, thieves are unlikely to go to the trouble of putting together a login procedure step by step. Therefore, you may probably put your trust in the large majority of networks that do require credentials in addition to accepting a service agreement’s terms and conditions.
Always keep in mind that you have the option to enquire. If you’re having trouble figuring out which network to connect to in a hotel, cafe, or library, a member of the staff will usually always be able to help you figure it out.
- Only visit websites that are secure.
However, even if you are linked to a secure network, there is no guarantee that your data will remain secure. In order to protect your privacy, you should avoid accessing HTTPS websites whenever feasible. HTTPS websites transmit data over an encrypted connection.
A secure HTTPS website is often straightforward to distinguish from a non-secure HTTP website.
Additionally, it should have a padlock icon in the address bar in addition to the URL beginning with “https” (rather than “http”). This sign will be displayed on a number of prominent websites, including Facebook and other social media platforms, in the coming months.
Always keep in mind that it is not rare to come across fraudulent clones of these websites, especially when using phishing techniques to gain entry. If you arrive at a website through an email or a pop-up window, double-check that it is real.
Using HTTPS Everywhere, a widely used application, you may help by requiring you to connect to a website’s HTTPS version wherever it is available. The fact that not all websites will have an HTTPS version and that you must still undertake your own due diligence means that this only solves a piece of the problem.
- Do not send any confidential information over the Internet.
Despite the fact that this is undoubtedly basic knowledge, we occasionally lose sight of ourselves when driving. It is just not a good idea to do online banking transactions or credit card purchases when connected to public WiFi networks.
If there is any danger that your information will be monitored, you should refrain from disclosing it to anyone. An identity thief can utilize just a few critical pieces of information to steal your identity, in addition to using it to conduct financial activities.
While out and about, it’s a good idea to unplug from your wifi network and reconnect via your regular cellular network if you really must disclose vital information. When weighed against the alternatives, it is likely that paying for a few extra gigabytes of data is a reasonable investment.
- Turn off your device’s wireless network connection.
Do you keep a list of all of the WiFi settings for all of your devices? With so many changes and new options, it can be difficult to keep up. The option to “Automatically connect to known networks,” “ask to join networks,” or anything along those lines can be found in many wifi settings options menus. When enabled, if you previously authorized permission for your device to connect to a certain network, your device will automatically rejoin that network whenever it is identified as a valid network.
Unless you take precautions to avoid it, you may find yourself linked to networks when you did not plan to be. This unnecessary risk can be avoided in a straightforward manner. Simply disable wifi when not in use… While this may appear to be a hassle, it is usually only a matter of a few clicks to reactivate the feature.
- Disable device sharing settings on your computer.
A smart approach, in a similar spirit to the prior point, is to disable any default sharing options that may be available. The ability to easily share automatically with other devices on the same network, whether at home or at the workplace, is a helpful feature whether you’re working from home or the office. However, a public wifi network should not be trusted in the same way.
Users of desktop computers can customize their sharing settings through the Control Panel (Windows) or System Preferences (Mac) (macOS).
The sharing options are available in Windows.
In addition, don’t overlook the use of Bluetooth technology. Because of the vulnerabilities that have been revealed, it is recommended that you turn this off when it is not absolutely necessary.
- Make use of a virtual private network (VPN).
When you connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you can dramatically increase your internet security, regardless of whatever network you are connected to. It is, on the other hand, extremely advantageous when used in conjunction with public wifi networks.
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts and tunnels all traffic to and from your device through a third-party server. The implications of this are that, even if traffic is intercepted, the contents of the traffic cannot be read.
A virtual private network (VPN) is useful for more than just security. Your authenticated user IP address is obscured and replaced with a VPN IP address from the area of your choice when traffic travels through the VPN server during the authentication process. This allows you to give the appearance of being in another area and so access geo-restricted content, such as that available on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, without actually being there.
Certain VPNs incorporate automatic WiFi protection as a standard feature. For example, NordVPN automatically protects all wifi networks, whereas CyberGhost requires you to start the VPN only when you are connected to a known network. For other VPN services, it is just a matter of connecting to a public wifi network and activating the VPN before connecting to the network.
- Turn on your firewall if it is necessary.
The importance of a firewall as the first line of defense against attackers is commonly ignored. A layer of protection is added between your device and the internet as a result of this. It essentially locks off all of the ports on your computer, preventing threats from infiltrating the system or your data from being lost or compromised.
Certain operating systems, such as newer versions of Windows, as well as some antivirus software, feature a built-in firewall to protect users’ information (which may need to be enabled). If you like, you may also install a firewall; Comodo and TinyWall are two free solutions to consider.
Verify that your program is up to date by downloading and installing the most recent version.
It goes without saying that this is another self-evident tip, but it is still worth stating. When software is updated on a regular basis, one of the key motivations for doing so is to fix security gaps and vulnerabilities.
As a result, it makes perfect sense to maintain your program up to date with the most recent version at all times, regardless of the circumstances. Additional improvements should include increased security as well as an improved user experience.