Public Wifi: Easy to access or unsafe practice?
In 2018 a public WiFi hotspot is more readily available than your favorite Starbucks drink. As it stands right now there is one WiFi hotspot for every 19 people in the United States alone. That's over 17 million WiFi access points.
Typical public WiFi access points lack the security that is necessary to make sure that all of your data remains encrypted and unknown. People are quick to access public WiFi and use the internet connection in the same way they would at home, without thinking about the potential ramifications of surfing on an unsecured network. With all of these WiFi access points, it makes it ever easier for hackers to access your private data as you surf the web over these unprotected networks.
How Can Hackers Use a Lack of Public WiFi Protection Against Me?
With a secured and wired connection, it would essentially be like you and I were writing down information and passing it back and forth to each other. The only way a hacker can really get that data would be if they somehow managed to get in between that passing of paper and reading it. However, WiFi would be like you and I standing across from each other and shouting back and forth. It is easy for someone to listen to what we are saying, write it down, and try to understand it.
When you surf the web on unsecured Public WifI that lacks the necessary protections you leave all of your data open to be viewed by anyone who gets access to the network. Your packets can be "sniffed" which means a hackers uses a tool to collect all the data being transferred over the network and then reviews it on their own time. The data that
Additionally, unsecured networks can be spoofed very easily. A hacker can go into Starbucks and setup my own "Starbucks free WiFi" and with a little bit of HTML create a landing page that allows you to access the hackers created network and looks just like the real thing. Since we have become so mentally wired to join any WiFi network, you likely wouldn't think twice before connecting to this network. Now the hacker can launch man-in-the-middle attacks. Since the hacker now owns the network you are on, they could easily redirect bankofamerica.com to bankofamerica.hackingyou.com. If you aren't vigilant, you'll be giving them your banking login credentials in no-time.
Here are the types of attacks to be on the lookout for.
- Packet sniffing
- Spoofed WiFi
- Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
What Can I Do To Ensure I Have Public WiFi Protection?
As with anything, the best way to protect yourself is to just not do it. The best way to stop from getting hacked over Public WiFi is to never use it. But the reality is, this isn't always an option.
Here are a few tips on how you can protect yourself on Public WiFi
- Do not access sensitive information over public WifI. Make sure you are only doing casual browsing.
- Limit the amount of time you spend connected to Public WiFI.
- Make sure you are only logging onto the HTTPS version of websites. This is fairly standard, but always pay attention.
- Be on the lookout for things that look fishy when connecting to a network: misspellings, awkward fonts and spacing, etc. These can be signs that a hacker is trying to execute a man-in-the-middle attack.
- Use a tool that automatically encrypts and pushes your web traffic through HTTPS. We personally recommend Paladin's Browser Protection with Password Manager
Take only one step and your are much better off. Take all of the steps and hackers will likely have a much more difficult time hacking you over public WiFi getting into your accounts. Ensuring your public WiFi security will go a long in stopping hackers from getting your data and access to your accounts. Take the first step today and you are already on the right path.