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THE DANGERS OF CONNECTING TO A PUBLIC OR FREE WIFI

public wifi

What is public Wi-Fi?

Public Wi-Fi can be defined as any iinternet network found in popular public places like airports, coffee shops, malls, restaurants, and hotels — and it allows you to access the Internet for free. These “hotspots” are so widespread and common that people frequently connect to them without thinking twice. Although it sounds harmless to log on and check your social media account or browse some news articles, everyday activities that require a login — like reading e-mail or checking your bank account — could be risky business on public Wi-Fi.

What are the risks?

The problem with public Wi-Fi is that by using it you stand the risk of exposing your personal and confidential information to hackers, there are a tremendous number of risks that go along with these networks. While business owners may believe they’re providing a valuable service to their customers, chances are the security on these networks is porous or nonexistent.

OTHER RISKS ARE AS FOLLOWS

Malware distribution

 There are software vulnerabilities, there are also ways that attackers can slip malware onto your computer without you even knowing. A software vulnerability is a security hole or weakness found in an operating system or software program. Hackers can exploit this weakness by writing code to target a specific vulnerability, and then inject the malware onto your device.

Man-in-the-Middle attacks

One of the most common threats on these networks is called a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack. Essentially, a MitM attack is a form of eavesdropping. When a computer makes a connection to the Internet, data is sent from point A (computer) to point B (service/website), and vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to get in between these transmissions and “read” them. So what you thought was private no longer is.

Unencrypted networks

Encrption means that the information that is sent between your computer and the wireless router are in the form of a “secret code,” so that it cannot be read by anyone who doesn’t have the key to decipher the code. Most routers are shipped from the factory with encryption turned off by default, and it must be turned on when the network is set up. If an IT professional sets up the network, then chances are good that encryption has been enabled. However, there is no surefire way to tell if this has happened.

Snooping and sniffing

Wi-Fi snooping and sniffing is what it sounds like. Cybercriminals can buy special software kits and even devices to help assist them with eavesdropping on Wi-Fi signals. This technique can allow the attackers to access everything that you are doing online — from viewing whole webpages you have visited (including any information you may have filled out while visiting that webpage) to being able to capture your login credentials, and even hijack your accounts.

Malicious hotspots

These “rogue access points” trick victims into connecting to what they think is a legitimate network because the name sounds reputable. Say you’re staying at the Goodnyght Inn and want to connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi. You may think you’re selecting the correct one when you click on “GoodNyte Inn,” but you haven’t. Instead, you’ve just connected to a rogue hotspot set up by cybercriminals who can now view your sensitive information.

Malicious attacks through ad hocs.Ad hocs are peer-to-peer networks which connect two computers directly. When remote workers use a public Wi-Fi network, their devices are likely to be set to discover new networks, making it possible for hackers to connect directly to them.

Password and username vulnerability.Using a public Wi-Fi makes you and your employees vulnerable to having passwords and usernames stolen when you log on.  Websites utilizing secure socket layer or HTTPs provide a needed level of security. 

Exposure to worm attacks. Worms act much like viruses, with one key difference. Viruses must have a program to attack in order to successfully compromise a system, while worms can wreak havoc all by themselves. When connected to a public Wi-Fi, you run the risk of a worm travelling from another device that’s connected to the network to your computer.

How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi

If must use public wifi,apply the following principles.

The best way to know your information is safe while using public Wi-Fi is to use a virtual private network (VPN), when surfing on your PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet. .

  • Disable file sharing
  • Only visit sites using HTTPS
  • Log out of accounts when done using them

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