Public Wi-Fi: good or bad?

by Daniel Segun January 13, 2020


What we think about at first when we are planning safe traveling? Right! Saving your passport, wallet, credit cards and smartphone. But nowadays that’s not all. Nowadays protecting your devices from the threats of open Wi-Fi networks is also of high importance.

Our mobile devices are now not of less importance than our passport due to the huge amount of sensitive information that it contains. And you should be careful with your passport in public places, as well as with giving your personal data to strangers. Why then are we so gullible using open free Wi-Fi? That’s a good question, we should answer in our article.

There are three most popular spots, people are using, when they want to spend their free time traveling: airport Wi-Fi, café Wi-Fi spots and Wi-Fi networks in hotels. So let’s analyze each in more detail.

Spending free time using Wi-Fi in airports

Taking into account that you will spend some time during your flight offline, most of us try to catch up on the last emails or to message close people using airport Wi-Fi. Everybody knows that most parts of airports have time-constrained free Wi-Fi, but we cannot be sure for 100% is it safe or not. 

Anyway, we should be aware of the fact that when the Wi-Fi spot is insecure, some people, who use the same spot, can steal your personal data just knowing the know-how. So, firstly, you should be careful about visiting some types of websites and logging into that one which requires your password. By using some software tools hackers can steal your password. Special attention should be also paid to the pages that require your financial information (credit card numbers, passwords, etc.), such as online shops or transactional websites.

Connecting to open free Wi-Fi in coffee places

Cafes and restaurants are not just places aimed at drinking coffee or eating, mostly we use them like spots to charge devices and use the internet. So when you order a beverage, you also hope to get a free and safe Wi-Fi connection. But even Wi-Fi spots that are password protected, to our regret not always safe for use.

As people often use free Wi-Fi, without analyzing the risks, they can take, cafes became very popular among hackers or other thieves, who can steal your important personal information just using specialized tools and fake hotspots. All the information you use on unsaved Wi-Fi could be attackable if the trusted VPN is not used.

Connecting to Wi-Fi in hotels

As you have come to the place and are already ready to rest or work, don’t relax too much while using a Wi-Fi connection in your hotel. Password protected hotel Wi-Fi network is not also always secure.

Taking into account that hotels’ main aim is not information security, but hospitality, be careful entering your password to Wi-Fi in hotels. You should not only be sure that you get the official hotel’s Wi-Fi but also to have VPN to keep your personal information and search history safe, as long as you try not to log in to any unsecured online accounts.

What to fear when using unsaved Wi-Fi

In spite of the fact that public Wi-Fi spots are very convenient, we can face the next situations of stealing our personal information.

Hacked numbers of payment cards

It can be two ways how thieves can hack your payment information when you use open Wi-Fi. 

The first one is Man in the Middle attack when hackers can steal your personal data on its way from your mobile device to a bank or any other website. They should only find an unsecured Wi-Fi router that belongs to your hotel you stay in or your favorite place to stay and take your information when you type your payment details to buy something.
Second, one is the Evil Twin attack based on the creation of a fake Wi-Fi network that is similar to your hotel’s or any other place’s official one. As you log in to this unauthorized Wi-Fi, any operation you do can be monitored, including all credit card operations.

All the security experts advise not to use information about your credit cards in public places.

Hacked bank account information

The same system is used by cyber thieves, Man in the Middle or Evil Twin attacks. They can easily monitor you during logging into your online financial account or entering your credit card data. So never shop online or check your financial accounts taking advantage of open free Wi-Fi networks.

Checking your online activities

If you think the online history, email messages you write, while taking advantage of open free Wi-Fi, are private, you are deeply mistaken. Using some basic cybertechnology, hackers can check all your online history when you open free Wi-Fi in hotels or any other public places. So don’t be too trustful to taking advantage of open free Wi-Fi during surfing online, you would never be sure, who are watching you.

Filching your log-in data

You should be also aware that anytime you write your password to enter your personal sites or surfing open Wi-Fi, you take risk of opening this information to cyberthieves. They can steal those data and log onto your financial account anytime they need it. The identical system also works when you sign into websites of your bank, medical organizations, and accounts.

So be careful and never visit any financial or private websites that require to enter your personal data while you are working at public places, such as cafes, hotels, even libraries, and public governmental organizations.

Risk of infecting your PC with malicious software

But even when you don’t use any financial and private sites or enter websites using passwords and logins, professional cyber hackers can also put special malicious software to your devices when you are taking advantage of open free Wi-Fi and you have a file-sharing option in this Wi-Fi network. Sometimes they don’t rely on stealing your personal information.

Hackers may also trick you. When you log onto free Wi-Fi, you can accidentally download malware, that will be disguised as another file or program.

5 main advice which will help you to decrease your risks of taking advantage of open free Wi-Fi

1. Check the website URLs
Always be sure that the URL of the website you’re visiting while surfing open Wi-Fi begins with HTTPS and includes S at the end, which stands there for secure, and informs that your data is encoded.

2. Switch your passwords
Use other passwords when you having a trip. When you are sure that you’ll need to log in to your private accounts with passwords, switch your passwords to new and more complicated ones while traveling, and then swap to old ones when you are again at home.

3. Try not to use websites which use your private information
Try to avoid entering your private data to any websites where your personal information should be used. More frequent ones, we are using in our everyday lives: bank institutions, email accounts, retail websites, and social network profiles. If you can wait using this website while traveling, just do that and protect your devices.

4. Start using updates
All of us ignore updates. However, the main task of releasing software updates is to fix the last vulnerabilities. So before traveling ascertain that you updated your software and apps on your mobile devices.

5. Select the safest settings
Analyze the settings on all your mobile devices and laptop. If your PC or smartphone automatically connects to all available Wi-Fi networks, make sure to close it. When you’re at public places, try to close your Bluetooth before you really have an urgent need to use it.

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