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These days free Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere, enabling you to enjoy Internet connectivity on the go, whether you are at a hotel, coffee shop, or restaurant. These networks are undoubtedly liberating, yet potentially unsafe to use. Yes, you heard that just right!
Public Wi-Fi usually doesn’t require any authentication. You would either come across a captive portal with conditions to access the network or an employee would tell you the password upon asking. It’s very easy to connect to free Wi-Fi, even for cybercriminals.
Sometimes the bad guys even set up their own rogue Wi-Fi network. They use this technique to trap unwary users. This free Wi-Fi is set up at a high-traffic location such as a hotel or restaurant. These networks are often given names such as “Free Public Wi-Fi” or “Hotel X Wi-Fi”.
It’s hard to trace these hackers and even if by any chance authorities locate the source of the signal, the hacker is long gone with all the user’s stolen credentials. Below, we will discuss the threats posed by public Wi-Fi networks, and how you can boost your public Wi-Fi security.
Common Dangerous of Public Wi-Fi
The attackers who set up the public Wi-Fi trap could be after a number of things. They could be after private information like your name, address, credentials, and social security number. It’s not likely that you would notice anything wrong right away. Sometimes you don’t notice any strange activity on your credit report for months, even years!
Another threat posed by these attackers is the potential for blackmail. These attacks sometimes hack into your device to access compromising documents or images. Devices with file-sharing options turned on are extremely susceptible to ransomware.
The attacker can easily encrypt all the data on your mobile device or computer and demand a ransom to unlock it. This makes creating a backup strategy exceptionally vital. If your device gets infected by ransomware, you can clear the hard drive and start over again.
Mentioned below are some of the most common dangers of public Wi-Fi i.e.:
In this article, we will shed light only on two common public Wi-Fi threats which are:
When it comes to a Wi-Fi network, it comprises three components
The third component, which is the router, is linked to the internet. The access point produces radio signals that are required to access the public Wi-Fi. The attacker uses a simple technique to exploit public Wi-Fi. They simply place themselves between the user and the router.
This technique is referred to as the “man-in-the-middle” attack or MITM. In this case, the attacker captures the data passed along and the user, more often than not, will never notice anything suspicious – unless they are tech-savvy of course.
Acting as a relay, the attacker obtains access to all the traffic passing from the user’s device to the websites they access. The information they could get includes your passwords, credit card details, messages, and more. What’s worst is that your device can be used by them for carrying out DDoS attacks on other devices.
Public Wi-Fi networks are no doubt a convenience, but you can’t blindly trust every free network that you come across. There are many malicious public hotspots set up by hackers with an intention to breach your privacy.
These open networks often have a name similar to that of a nearby network and will appear to be completely legitimate. Unwary users, as a result, connect to these fake hotspots without giving it a second thought.
The intention of these malicious networks is to push malware to the user’s device or make them download malware on their device. They do this by creating a compelling advertisement to lure the users into thinking that it’s sponsored by the café or hotel they are at.
If a user connects to a rogue hotspot or falls victim to a MitM attack, their private information could be exploited. When you connect to a Wi-Fi network, you trust it with your information. If you want to stay protected from threats while using public Wi-Fi, it’s important to make sure that you have appropriate safeguards in place.
VPNs – The Best Way to Prevent Dangers of Public Wi-Fi
Virtual private networks, aka VPNs, are an effective way to stay safe on public Wi-Fi. Basically, they act as a safe tunnel for your device. Upon connecting to a VPN, all your traffic is routed through a remote server and encrypted from end-to-end, keeping it safe from any eavesdroppers on public Wi-Fi networks.
Moreover, your real IP address will also be replaced with a virtual one to enhance your anonymity. The VPN will conceal your identity in such a way that the public Wi-Fi only sees an encoded connection between your device and the VPN server you are connected to.
You will come across a number of VPN providers on the market, but the one we’d recommend is PureVPN. Based in Hong Kong, they offer 2,000+ servers and 300,000+ IP addresses, along with a plethora of security features, including Internet Kill Switch, Ozone, AES 256-bit Encryption, Gravity, etc. all of which ensure the best public Wi-Fi security.
Using a VPN is essential to keep one’s personal information secure from hackers and identity thieves on public Wi-Fi. So, make sure to set up and connect to a VPN on your device before you hop on these networks!
Mehmood Hanif has a genuine passion in covering the latest happenings in the cybersecurity and digital landscape. He likes getting out and about but mostly ends up spending too much of his time behind a computer keyboard.
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