There is no doubt that free Wi-Fi is great. Browsing a bit while you wait for your friend at the coffee place is definitely handy. But the truth is that there are some risks of connecting to a public and free Wi-Fi spots. Many times, there are people with bad intentions connected to that same network, waiting to take advantage of you.
Let’s go through the dangers of public Wi-Fi and what can you do to avoid them.
Interfering With Free Wi-Fi
Nowadays, whenever you connect to the Internet without protection, you are risking exposing your data. On a public Wi-Fi, the risk is even bigger. You don’t know who has admin rights over that network or who is connected to it. The biggest danger is hackers, who find it very easy to tamper with such an unsecured connection. They can easily get access to private data, like e-mails, passwords or social media accounts.
Encrypted Websites Improve your Safety
The main thing to avoid in such networks are websites that are not encrypted. In other words, you will want to be careful with HTTP websites, the ones without the green lock. Whatever you do on those sites is vulnerable and may expose you.
It’s incredible how people connect to a public Wi-Fi without any kind of protection. They use passwords, usernames, credit card info, and other kinds of personal data that can easily be stolen and used for profit, or just to have fun.
Beware of Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
Even if you play by the book and use secured websites, there are still ways to get in your system. The famous Man-in-the-Middle attacks are one of the most common dangers on a public free Wi-Fi. As the name says, imagine someone between you and the website you are connecting to. This hacker is there, in the middle, but you don’t know it. You think you are connected to a website, but you are exchanging data directly with the hacker, who pretends to be the destination website. That way, he will be able to divert, tamper and steal your data.
Other Kind of Attacks on Free Wi-Fi
There are some obvious techniques to access your machine on public networks. You would be surprised how many people fall for simple tricks and get their online lives ruined, or stolen. One of the oldest is the USB stick laying around. Many people just stick it in their laptops and they’re done, it’s too late after that.
Another one is a fake network with a similar name of the public space where you are. That name will look legit, but it’s a trap, a Wi-Fi hotspot that will take you directly to the mouth of the wolf. If you connect, the hacker will access everything he wants.
But there are many more, such as IP spoofing, DNS spoofing, SSL highjacking and even through theft of browser cookies.
How to be Safe on Public Wi-Fi
The best way to be safe on public and free Wi-Fi networks is using a Virtual Private Network, also known as VPN. This software encrypts your entire connection, not allowing anyone to view what you are doing or stealing your private data. With a VPN, your connection is routed through one of their servers and only then directed at your destination.
Think of a VPN server as a filter that is getting rid of vulnerabilities that can expose you. Such “filter” will clean your connection, meaning it encrypts it and protects it.
Free Wi-Fi hotspots are a great danger that compromises millions of people every year. It’s so easy for a hacker to access info in these public networks. Just keep in mind that the password is available to everyone who asks for it. Sometimes it’s even written in the menu or at the counter.
The wisest thing to do is encrypting your connection and be invisible when you are online. At home or at the bar, you can never be too careful.