5 Tips to Avoid Public Wi-Fi Security Dangers
Public networks in cafes, airports, train stations and in the workplace are undoubtedly convenient for all of us. Especially when we are abroad and want to avoid roaming bills or are running out of the monthly data volume, we rely on Wi-Fi hotspots. With just a few clicks we can connect to a fast internet connection, most often free of charge.
However, there is a catch: The ability to access a wireless connection through public hotspots contains a certain risk. Hackers, who are connected to the same network can monitor personal data without much effort.
Many providers do not use encryption security. Encryption although transforms all the information you use online into a code that is inaccessible for others and therefore ensures that your personal data are secure. A device that is connected to an open network can be hacked within less than two seconds without you even realising it.
There is a risk that a hotspot was set up by a criminal, mimicking to be a public secure one. Most commonly, in locations where public Wi-Fi is expected, near popular tourist spots, these rogue networks are installed. Fake Wi-Fi hotspots use harmless names like “Free Wi-Fi” and can be used to collect your personal data and information. These can be details of your bank records, passwords as well as emails.
A ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack can occur when a hacker intercepts data exchanges. The attacker captures and additionally manipulates information in real-time. Security lacks in applications, websites and networks are exploited to see all the information that is transmitted. Unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspots serve as an optimal access point for hackers to position themselves between your device and the network.
But you can protect yourself while being connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Enable your firewall: Ensure that your device is protected with a strong firewall to help avoid potential security threats from other users on the network. Keep your software up-to-date to have the latest virus protection.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN): This will encrypt and anonymise all the traffic. Attackers can only see that there is a connection to a VPN server but are not able to monitor which data are send using that network. Simply download a VPN application on your device and turn it on as soon as you connect to a public network.
- Be vigilant: Before connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot you should read their terms and conditions in case they have these. Additionally, make sure to only submit information on websites that start with HTTPS instead of HTTP. This signifies a secure site that encrypts the transmitted data and your information has a greater degree of safety.
- Browse with caution: Generally, you should avoid accessing websites that ask for sensitive data like passwords, credit card or account numbers. If that is unavoidable, log out from personal accounts as soon as you are done, so you are no longer subject to exposure.
- Turn Wi-Fi off when not in use: Even when you are not connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, your laptop or smartphone is still sending data to and from any network within a certain range. To avoid that your device connects automatically to hotspots you may have used in the past, turn automatic connections off in your settings.
There is a way you can use public hotspots safely without downloading any application. Xirrus EasyPass combines security and simplicity, allowing guest, visitors and employees to automatically and easily create their own secure personal Wi-Fi network on public Wi-Fi. It safeguards users and their data when accessing public Wi-Fi, guest networks and hotspot environments. Learn how your secure personal network can be created in 3 easy steps.