The Dangers of Free Wi-Fi

We’ve all done it at one point or another. Maybe you didn’t want to exceed your monthly data limit, maybe you needed to check your email on your laptop, or maybe you were traveling abroad and wanted to avoid expensive roaming data rates – so you connected to free, unsecured Wi-Fi.

You’re not alone -in fact, at the 2016 Republic and Democratic National Conventions, approximately 70% of attendees connected to public Wi-Fi networks. Whether it’s at a Starbucks, McDonald’s, the airport or elsewhere, free Wi-Fi can be really convenient; unfortunately, when it comes to technology, greater convenience often comes with greater risk.

As adoption of new technology rises around the globe, so does cybercrime. It’s more important than ever to ensure that you, your family and your employees practice safety when using technology in order to avoid identity theft and other consequences.

Sure, it’s convenient to utilise free Wi-Fi, but it’s important to keep in mind that hackers are smart and they know where people are likely to connect their devices to unsecured networks. Cybercriminals can set up free Wi-Fi and disguise it as a trusted source — like the name of the hotel you’re staying at –and when you unknowingly connect, you could be compromising your device.

The most common technique cybercriminals employ to compromise users on public Wi-Fi is the “Man in the Middle” method, in which they intercept data between your device and the intended destination.

That’s why it’s so important to use discretion when determining whether a free Wi-Fi hotspot is really worth the risk. Think of it this way: connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi network is like unprotected sex – while there isn’t a guarantee something will go wrong, it’s a big risk. Keep these tips in mind when considering the risks of unsecured Wi-Fi:

  • Avoid accessing sensitive info when using public Wi-Fi, such as online banking, shopping, etc.
  • Set your smartphone up with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that encrypts your data to keep it safe from hackers.
  • Enable two-factor authentication — offered by Gmail, Facebook, PayPal and more — which adds a secondary step for verification, ensuring that hackers would need more than just your password to gain access to your accounts.
  • Don’t visit websites unless they have HTTPS encryption. You can tell by looking at the beginning of the URL – unsecured sites just have “HTTP”.
  • Configure your smartphone so that it doesn’t automatically connect to open Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Keep your Bluetooth function turned off unless you’re specifically using it with another device.
  • Invest in a larger data plan so that you don’t have to rely on public Wi-Fi.

With the rate at which technology is constantly evolving, it’s important to take advantage of the latest tools available to you. When it comes to sensitive data, there’s no precaution too great.

At the end of the day, security comes down to you: the user. No matter what kind of firewalls, antivirus or other IT security software your employer or your family uses, if you’re not being safe, you won’t stay secure for long.

To learn more about the most effective ways to protect yourself against modern cybercrime tactics, contact Correct Solutions