There seems to have been a veritable explosion of availability in public Wi-Fi. You can readily find these free access points at bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, airports, hotels, apartment buildings, and even at big-box retailers. With this kind of availability, many of us are rarely very far away from accessing our network and the projects that we’re working on.
All of this convenience does come at a price, however. Do you know all of the cybersecurity risks that are associated with a free public Wi-Fi connection? Learn the risks and learn how to protect yourself, your identity, and your data.
Learning the risks of public Wi-Fi
The very same features that make public Wi-Fi useful to you make them a target for fraudsters. No password or authentication is needed when looking to connect. Convenient for you. And just as suitable for hackers who will be able to gain unfettered access to any number of unsecured devices using the Wi-Fi connection.
Perhaps the most concerning threat to your cybersecurity is that the fraudster can set himself between your device and the actual Wi-Fi connect point. What this means is that your device is communicating directly with the hacker and his device. All without your knowledge.
In this capacity, the hacker will now have access to all the data you’re transmitting across the network. This data could include sensitive information in your emails, security credentials for work or perhaps your bank account, and even your credit card numbers. With any of this information is the potential to cause a significant disruption in both your professional and personal life.
An unsecured Wi-Fi connection can also be used as a malware distribution tool. For example, if you have file sharing enabled, it’s a matter of a few clicks for a hacker to infect your device with malware. This malware could allow the fraudster complete access to your device, even once you’re in the office and behind a secured network.
Your mobile device could offer a reliable alternative to a public Wi-Fi connection. That said, public Wi-Fi networks can often provide higher rates of speed. For someone getting work done at a coffee shop, having that better speed will help them to stay productive and efficient on the go.
Public Wi-Fi is likely to continue to see increasing popularity, which brings the risk of increasing cybersecurity concerns. That said, you don’t need to avoid free Wi-Fi altogether when you need to stay connected on the go.
Most hackers are lazy and simply looking for the easiest targets. However, with just a few precautions, you should be able to protect yourself and your data.
Be aware, on each of your devices
It’s easy to think that it’s just your laptop that’s at risk when you connect to a public Wi-Fi connection. But think about how often you’re likely to connect your smartphone or your tablet when you’re at a restaurant, airport, or coffee shop. Just a few minutes connecting your tablet so that you can buy and download a few eBooks could be enough time for a hacker to gain access to your information.
Use a VPN connection
When connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, particularly with your work devices, it’s essential to use a virtual private network (VPN) connection. Even if a wily hacker can place himself between you and the Wi-Fi connection, the data from your device will be heavily encrypted. Hackers want to do as little as possible, so they will likely discard encrypted data instead of going through the hassle of trying to decrypt it.
Don’t use Wi-Fi when you don’t need it
When you’re not using your devices, or you’re working on something that doesn’t require an internet connection, turn off your Wi-Fi.
Enable SSL connections
Most of us don’t use a VPN for casual internet use, but it is still possible to add an extra layer of encryption to the data you’re accessing and sending. First, ensure that any website you’re using, particularly those that need you to use login credentials, has SSL enabled. These websites should start with HTTPS versus HTTP.
Most websites that need users to use credentials to access their account will have an SSL connection. Just be sure to double-check before sending over sensitive or private information.
Even those who do all the right things to protect themselves on a public Wi-Fi network may potentially run into problems. Cybersecurity risks are simply a fact of our interconnected and increasingly digital life. This is why it’s vital to ensure that each of your devices is protected by a robust cybersecurity solution. Whether that means anti-malware protection on your laptop or a trustworthy third-party app on your tablet. It’s essential to also keep up with regular updates.
Be aware of the risks, use public Wi-Fi with caution, and perform routine cybersecurity checks on each of your devices.