Free internet. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, the negatives of using public Wi-Fi far outweigh the benefits. Free internet often comes at a price and that price is your security.
If you’ve ever shared important files and information over a public Wi-Fi network you should think twice before you do it again. Connecting your devices to a public Wi-Fi network is essentially an invitation to fraudsters that your personal information is theirs for the taking.
Public networks shouldn’t be trusted as there are a variety of different ways that people can hijack your connection and access your information. In this article, we’ll explain how dangerous public Wi-Fi really is. Here, we share our six top reasons why it’s time to stop using public Wi-Fi.
So, you’ve accessed a public Wi-Fi network but do you have any idea how it’s been set up? Many modern routers have the option to encrypt the information that they’re transferring, but as this option is usually turned off as a default option, you’re relying on the competency of whoever’s set up the router controlling the public Wi-Fi network you’ve connected to.
If a public network doesn’t require a WPA or WPA2 password to access it, the information you’re sending through it isn’t encrypted. You can make a safe bet that any information you’re transferring will be easily accessible by anyone who has the knowledge to access it – and hacking into a public network isn’t as difficult as you might imagine.
Man-in-the-Middle attacks are one of the oldest and most common types of attacks on public networks. A Man-in-the-Middle attack is when a communication between two systems is intercepted by a hacker.
These attacks are often difficult to spot, allowing hackers to gather vast amounts of information while those transferring it are blissfully unaware of what’s happening. Hackers may use Man-in-the-Middle attacks for a number of different reasons, whether that’s stealing personal information such as passwords and login information or simply to sabotage their files.
Worryingly, Man-in-the-Middle attacks can happen in any form of online communication, such as email or instant messaging on social media platforms. To execute a one, a hacker simply needs access to an unsecured router – such as the ones used for public Wi-Fi.
Rogue Access Points and Evil Twin Networks
Fake and malicious public Wi-Fi hotspots, also known as ‘evil twin’ networks, are designed to fool people into thinking they’re connecting to legitimate public Wi-Fi. Evil twin networks are created with the purpose of stealing your information as hackers are able to access personal information such as usernames, passwords, and bank details.
These fake networks are often disguised with names you’d associate with legitimate public Wi-Fi networks and can be hard to spot as a result. It can often be difficult to tell which public Wi-Fi networks are genuine, so our advice would always be to avoid using them altogether.
Hackers can use public networks to easily distribute malware to any devices that are connected. There are many ways that hackers can plant malware without you even realizing, especially if you have file sharing capabilities set up on your devices.
The risks of your devices getting malware are increased significantly if you’re connected to a rogue access point or evil twin network. Hackers that control the access point for public networks are able to send pop-up notifications to your devices.
These fraudulent pop-up notifications may tell you to accept a fake agreement before registering with the network or simply ask you to click a link before they can connect you. Clicking these notifications will trigger malware downloads. Even if you’re acting with due diligence on a public network, the negligence of others could result in your devices being affected with malware.
Computer worms are a form of malware that can quickly infect multiple devices over a single network until they eventually spread into other networks. In the case of public Wi-Fi, you run the risk of catching a virus from another device that’s connected to the same public network you’re using.
So why are computer worms so dangerous? Once they’re installed, worms are able to steal your personal information, set up trojan viruses and work with a collection of other compromised devices to carry out major attacks as part of a botnet.
Worms can be found anywhere, even in messages that are sent through social media sites. Be wary of opening any messages that are sent from strangers and certainly never click any links that they send.
You’re Being Spied On
Because public WiFi is so easy for hackers to access, it’s easy for them to infect your devices with spyware. In fact, much of the equipment and software that hackers need to spy on your devices is relatively cheap and available online.
Many hackers will use a wireless sniffer, a type of packet analyzer, to help them locate public networks that might not be discoverable so they can access your information more easily. Once they’re in, they can read any of the information that’s been sent over that network. Simply said: hackers can watch every little thing that you’re doing on public Wi-Fi if they wish to do so.
We hope this article was useful and has helped you learn some of the reasons why you should never connect your devices to public Wi-Fi.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where it’s absolutely essential you need to connect to public Wi-Fi, there are a couple of things you can do to keep yourself safe, but it’s important to note that no public network is ever completely safe.
For added reassurance, we would always recommend making sure you’re using a VPN when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network, as well as ensuring that all of the websites that you access have SSL certificates. You can visit our homepage here for a list of the best VPNs. To ensure total protection, make sure to avoid free VPNs altogether.