Public Wi-Fi Risks and 3 Ways to Avoid Them

Whether you work from home or in office, you will inevitably find yourself searching for public Wi-Fi in certain conditions to keep up with your workload. Nowadays, you’re likely to find free, public Wi-Fi at restaurants, hotels, airports, bookstores, coffee shops, etc. With the urgency that some jobs possess, these access points can be a godsend. However, free, public Wi-Fi comes with risks that many truly don’t comprehend. Understanding the risks that pose a threat to the average business traveler is essential to keeping your important business data from becoming another hacking statistic.

Risk 1 – Monkey in the Middle

The fact that free, public Wi-Fi requires no authentication to gain connection to a network is convenient for consumers but is also desirable and convenient for hackers. Hackers can easily gain access to unsecured devices on the same free network.

Your biggest threat to free Wi-Fi is that the hacker could position himself between you and the connection point. Unfortunately, if this happens, you would be sending your information or online whereabouts to the hacker, who then relays on it.

If this unfortunate situation arises, the hacker has access to every bit of information you’re sending out while connected to the network. This could be your card information, confidential emails or files, security credentials to personal accounts or even to your business network. Once the hacker has your data, they are able to access your systems or accounts at their leisure.

Risk 2 – Malware

Hackers have also been known to use unsecured Wi-Fi connections to distribute malware. If you permit file-sharing across one of these networks, a hacker can place infected software on your computer. Some hackers have even been known to hack the access point itself, causing pop-up windows to appear when someone tries to connect to the network. If someone clicks on the pop-up, it would install malware on the device.

Nowadays, Wi-Fi is so common and we are increasingly becoming more reliant on it. It’s safe to say that these risks and security issues will only increase over time. As long as you are aware and take precautions to these threats, there is no need to chain yourself to your desk and never trust free Wi-Fi ever again. Here are some ways to steer clear of these risks:

Solution 1 – VPN

Using a VPN, or virtual private network connection is a must when connecting to an unsecured connection, especially when it involves work for your business. Even if a hacker positions himself in the middle of your connection, the data here would be intensely encrypted. Since most hackers are after easy targets, they’ll likely move on to a more naïve victim when they see your information will take longer to access and decrypt.

Solution 2 – SSL Connections

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. For general internet browsing, it’s not likely to have a VPN available. However, you can still add a layer of encryption, or SSL, for your protection.

Make sure that you enable the “Always Use HTTPS” option on websites that require some kind of credentials or even those that you frequently visit. Keep in mind that hackers are experts on how people reuse their passwords, so your credentials for a random online retail store may be the same as your banking site or network for your business. Sending these credentials in an unencrypted setting could lead to a disastrous hacking situation.

Solution 3 – Auto Wi-Fi and Unnecessary Wi-Fi Usage

Smartphones and tablets nowadays have an option where you can automatically connect to available, unsecured Wi-Fi. While some might think this feature is great and helps take a load off their cellular data, what they don’t know WILL hurt them. It is the best and safest option to go into the Wi-Fi settings in the device and make sure that the option to automatically connect to open networks is turned off. This way, it should ask you to join networks instead of automatically connecting to an unsecured network that could potentially put you in a very unfortunate hacking situation.

When it comes to computers, even if you haven’t actively connected to a network, the hardware in your computer still transmits data between any network in range. While there are security measures in place to prevent this from compromising you and your data, there are routers that work differently and can be accessible to a smart hacker. Keep your Wi-Fi off if you’re using a program that doesn’t rely on the Internet. As a plus, this will also improve your battery life. It is important to note that even with taking all the necessary security precautions, it is possible to run into issues from time to time. This is why it’s detrimental to implement Internet security on your machines and devices. Taking these steps will safeguard you to the best of your ability when it comes to public Wi-Fi risks.

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