You can find free Wifi in most of the public places these days. Cafés, Restaurants, Hospitals and even public Buses let you use Wifi. Although this service is awesome for the business and us (the customers), I want you to re-think before using these public Wifis from now on. Why? Because it is not safe. How? Let me explain it.
First of all, like you love free and open wifi, hackers do too. Because it will be easier for hackers to connect to Public wifi since it’s available to everyone. When you are connected to same wifi as the hackers, they can use various tools to sniff your data (you don’t even need to be a pro to use some hacking tools these days).
When a hacker is on the same network as yours, he will act as a middle-man. This means your data will go through hacker before going to the website you are visiting. So, the middle-man can see everything you are doing on the Internet: your google searches, your comments on posts and even security credentials (passwords). I don’t need to tell you what he can do after he gets the information.
Furthermore, the hacker can also re-create your favourite websites say, Facebook. So, when you visit Facebook from your mobile or laptop on public wifi, the hacker will send you a fake Facebook login page (it will look exactly like Facebook). This way the hacker can easily get your credentials without you having any slightest clue; because, in this process, the attacker will send you the original Facebook login page afterwards and make it look like you entered a wrong password. This technique is called Phishing and can be very dangerous. So, never input your bank info on Public Wifi.
In addition, there is yet another bigger threat besides the ones we talked about– Malware. If file-sharing is allowed across a network, the hacker can easily plant a software(virus) on your computer. Once the malware is on your computer or mobile, some pop-up window will appear offering an upgrade for a popular software. Once you click it, the malware will be installed. The malware can then track everything you do on your device even after you disconnect the wifi. After that, you will not be safe even on your home Wifi.
Okay. Okay. Calm down. This doesn’t mean you should not use public free wifi. There is a solution to everything, right? Well, the solution is easy, you just need to take a few precautions.
Look around for suspicious person before connecting if it’s café or hospital. And, if you see open wifi in other places, find out about the host first. Do you know them? Can they be trusted? And, most of all, don’t do financial transactions using public wifi.
And do not surf into the website which requires credentials to be inserted. For example, if you log into Facebook, hackers can intercept the credentials so that they can access your Facebook ID for the information and can even hack it for their benefits. And if you have been using same passwords for different accounts, your multiple accounts will be at stake. So simply be aware!
Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) connection is a necessity to protect your privacy- from hackers or from your ISP. If you use a VPN, the data will be strongly encrypted. Hence, the middle-man (hacker) will get nothing. Since most hackers look for an easy target, they’ll most likely move on to another prey if they find encrypted data; rather than wasting time decrypting your information. Plus, the good news is, nowadays, you can also get free VPN service so you don’t need to worry if you can’t spend on a VPN.
Use SSL connections
Even if you are using a VPN, it is always better to use an extra layer of encryption by using SSL connections. If you are not using a VPN, you must always use SSL connections. For this, enable the “Always Use HTTPS” option from your browser on websites that you visit frequently, or that require you to enter some kind of credentials. Most websites that require an account like Facebook, e-Banking have the “HTTPS” options already enabled. But, never enter your login info if the website doesn’t have https (instead of HTTP) on its URL.
Set Up Two Factor Authentication for Every account if Possible
If Two Factor Authentication for any online account is available, you should be doing it right now. Setting up Two Factor Authentication troubles the Hackers because a new temporary code is sent to designated number whenever a new login is made. Without inserting the sent code, the account cannot be accessed. So you will always be safe.
Restrict Device Transmissions
Before connecting to a network, one should always be alert to turn off the Network Discovery and File Sharing within the Network.
Steps for Windows PC
Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Change Advance Sharing Center > Select Public Profile > Turn Off all (Network Discovery, File and Printer Sharing and Public Folder Sharing)
Set Up the Security Barriers
A well-configured firewall (personal or corporate) can filter transmissions to and from the network. So the use of up to date security software (anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, anti-Keylogger, etc.) and with the firewall turned on, you can be safe in most cases.
Update and Patch the latest updates and firmware
Developers are always keen on making the secure system and to evade the vulnerabilities. So with an up to date OS and browsing software, you are less prone to attacks.
Use Mobile Data Instead
This reason may not please the most but it won’t be a wise choice to be in Hackers radar than spending a few money to be safe from them. And with the expanding faster 4G networks and different volumes of budget-friendly data packs available from NTC and Ncell, one should definitely be less inclined to the use of Free Public Wi-Fi.
Keep your wifi off when not in use
I know it’s a “waste of time” going to the settings and turning off the Wifi on your mobile or laptop when you are not using it. Also, it feels great when you are automatically connected when you revisit some websites. But, is it a good practice? No.
Even when you are not actively connected to any Wifi, the WiFi adapter is still transmitting data if it finds any network within range. And, some hackers are so ingenious, they could connect to your device using the signals your Wifi adapter is sending. So, be on the safe side and turn off that wifi when not in use! Also, you’ll also experience a much longer battery life if you practice this habit.
Finally, be cautious and take precautions if you want to use Public Wifi. Happy Surfing!