Being Secure on Public Wi-Fi
Being Secure on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi has become a common thing among businesses to get consumers through their doors. Customers can check their social media accounts while they shop in big retail stores, or those who work from home can change their environment by working from a café for the day. Wi-Fi “hotspots” have also become a big thing for big internet retailers to allow their customers free places to access the internet that isn’t their home. Checking your Facebook account can be harmless but trying to access sensitive information while on public wi-fi may be risky and present more harm than good.
There are many dangers to your information when using public wi-fi, which include (but are not limited to):
- Man-in-the-Middle Attacks – When on any wi-fi, your computer (point A) communicates with the service/website you are using (point B). However, when on public wi-fi, your information transferred between those two points is not protected, and anyone can attack the vulnerabilities of the connection and intercept those transmissions. This is like a form of “eavesdropping” where the private information that you think only you can see is really open to anyone who can manipulate the weaknesses of the wi-fi.
- Malware Distribution – Like the aforementioned scenario, hackers can intercept the information your computer sends to the service/websites you’re using. However, when they’re able to do so, they can also intercept that transmission and add their own malware to your connection. Hackers can attack the vulnerabilities in public wi-fi to add viruses, spyware, or worms to harm your computer and hack your information.
- Malicious Wi-Fi Spots – Another worry when connecting to public wi-fi is malicious wi-fi. Many hackers will create their own network named after businesses nearby to trick a consumer to connecting to their spot. Since they would have full control over the connection, they would have many more avenues of being able to take your information and even plant spyware or malware.
With so many ways that hackers can intrude on your information when using public wi-fi, there are also plenty of ways to protect yourself. Here are some helpful tips:
- Use a VPN – A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help protect your computer and information through encryption. So instead of hackers being able to access the information that your computer transfers between websites and services, hackers will only be able to see gibberish, essentially. Along with that, your VPN will most likely show the location of the server it runs from rather than the location you are accessing the public wi-fi from. The Federal Trade Commission also has some helpful tips in choosing the right VPN for your needs.
- Do Not Access Personal and Private Information – The best rule of thumb is to always assume public wi-fi is unsafe. Do not access bank account, utility, email, etc information, or any information that you do not want hacked and possibly corrupted or taken from you.
- Check Your Device Settings – One major thing you should not do is connect automatically to connections nearby. Without knowing if the wi-fi is safe, you could connect to one of the previously mentioned hacker’s scam wi-fi, where they can access all your information and distribute malware onto your device.
- Log Out of Accounts – When on public wi-fi, you should always log out of your accounts when you finish using them. Leaving them logged in allows the hacker to see that information and gain entry to your accounts.
The popularization of public wi-fi has been good for many businesses, however, without knowing the risks or how to be safe using it, you could put yourself at risk of losing information and gaining malware. Learning what you could be vulnerable to, and how to protect yourself from vulnerabilities can help you access public wi-fi safely without threat to your information. The University of Fairfax also has programs where you can learn and become a cybersecurity professional—earn your graduate or terminal degree from our 100% online education. Enhance your cybersecurity career and join the nation’s ever-growing field, and learn all the ways to protect yourself on public wi-fi. Go to https://ufairfax.edu/university/elearning/ to learn more.
The University of Fairfax – Secure Your Future