April 25

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How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

Protecting yourself when using public Wi-Fi is important. I talked about this in a previous blog, but I felt that it is such an important topic that I’m giving you more information. Thanks to my friends at TurnOnVPN, who wrote this guest post. After reading this post, I would also encourage you to visit their website for even more information…

Now for their post——————

Corporate professionals who are frequent travelers must be well-acquainted with free public Wi-Fi at airports and stations, but many might not be aware of the cybersecurity risks of free Wi-Fi on both the individual and the company’s confidential communication.

Cybersecurity risks you’ve repeatedly overlooked

Before connecting to most public Wi-Fi networks, you are usually required to agree to some terms and conditions. That is the only hurdle to overcome before connecting, so most people tend to ignore them out of eagerness to get online.

But if you take the time to glance through a couple of sentences, you will understand why your data might not be secure once you’re logged in. In fact, the owners themselves know that their connections may be wildly unsafe and try to warn you so that they are not held responsible for whatever happens after.

You don’t have to take my word for it. We can pick a few examples of businesses offering free Wi-Fi to the public and see what their policies are.
Starting with Suddenlink, they state of their Wi-Fi zones in the US that “You acknowledge that the [Wi-Fi] service is inherently not secure and that wireless communications can be intercepted by equipment and software designed for that purpose.”

If that is not explicit enough, consider what Tim Hortons – a revered coffee chain from Canada – has to say. I It’s stated in their privacy policy highlights that they collect user data through available sources such as their in-restaurant Wi-Fi, and data includes your IP address, your interaction with content through their internet service, your location information and more.

Matters are not even helped when we move on to the likes of Arqiva. You should note that this is a company dedicated to fitting the lounges of airports with a Wi-Fi network and would be expected to have the best tech in the game. Surprisingly, they admit “the transmission of information via the internet and via the service is not secure.”

I can go on and on, but I believe you get the idea. Even if every other data I provide might not convince you, hearing it from the providers should set some bells ringing.

Network operators want to strip you bare

As if all of the above were no reason for worry, another threat comes in the form of the network operators. Apparently, you could still be susceptible to internet privacy breaches even if the network were tightened against external attacks.

Again, the companies who give their customers free Wi-Fi don’t hide this. It is yet another common feature in their terms and agreements.

The Puerto Rico District Court says of its own Wi-Fi network that “all communications over the [Wi-Fi] service may be subject to monitoring and should not be considered either private or protected.” Coming from a court of law, isn’t that rather ironic?

Little wonder then that other firms can do the same. After all, Virgin Media holds the right “to monitor and control data volume,” while the guys over at the Oscars can also “monitor and collect information while you are connected to the [Wi-Fi] service.”

Possible attacks on public Wi-Fi

If you have not already started picking up on it, the biggest problem with using free public Wi-Fi connections is in the way of data leak. How does this happen?

  • Man in the middle attacks
    • Experienced hackers can place themselves between two sides of a conversation. This allows them to intercept the messages being sent and received. They will also be able to hijack the conversation at any point, pose as either side, and extract sensitive information from either of the sides.
  • Rogue networks
    • Hackers may also set up rogue networks that will look legit and offer free connection to interested users. Once those users connect, they will be at the mercy of the hacker who will now be able to access all of their activity.
    • This grants the hacker access to bank logins, forum passwords, sensitive data, emails, and so much more.
  • Malware attacks
    • Due to a lack of encryption on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can freely upload malware to the server.
    • Everyone who connects to such a network faces the risk of downloading the malware to their computer units. This holds so much more significance since the hacker would still be able to maintain remote access to the computer – through the malware – even after the user disconnects from the network.

How you can protect yourself better

There isn’t supposed to be any harm in just being able to enjoy your free Wi-Fi connection in peace. With a number of unscrupulous individuals hunting your sensitive data though, that is not the case.

The ideal thing to do would be to stick to your own data plans and do away with the free Wi-Fi in the first place. If that is not an option, downloading a quality VPN on your iPhone is highly recommended.

A VPN will allow you to connect like always. The difference is just that you would be using a different server to send hackers on the wrong trail. That is not to mention being able to better mask data you send over the otherwise insecure network, since the transmitted data between your device and the VPN server is encrypted.

In addition to that, you also get to access content that might have been blocked on the Wi-Fi network.

With such procedures in place, you can keep enjoying your coffee shop freebie without having to worry about losing your bank login details – or some other important data – to some snooper.

Thanks again to TurnOnVPN for the great information, and if you use public Wi-Fi, be aware of and minimize the risks before you connect!

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Tags

Cybercrime, Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Techno-Crime


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