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How often do you use public hotspots?
Are you aware of the dangers and cyber threats of public Wifi?
Do you know how to protect yourself from harm? These are some of the questions that we will answer in this text, so if you are feeling intrigued, keep reading.
The dangers of using public WiFi
Everyone has several points during their day when they find themselves somewhere in public. They just happen to catch a break.
In those times, most people will simply take out their phones and check their favorite social network or email.
However, to do so, they need an internet connection, and they will first try to scan the area for WiFi.
If you do that, and you happen to see a free WiFi that is unlocked, you would think that you are lucky. However, you might just be about to enter a hacker’s trap.
Many of the free WiFi that you can find is either a trap set by hackers or a real thing, but with so poor protection there’s pretty much no difference.
We understand that sometimes you don’t have the time or patience to think about this sort of thing.
You might be in a hurry, or maybe you are waiting for an important email or message.
Even if you use it for just a little bit, your phone, tablet, or laptop can still get compromised.
So today, we are going to mention some of the most dangerous threats that you may come across. And also some of the methods that you can use to protect yourself from them.
So just keep reading, and let’s see what they are.
What are the dangers of using public WiFi?
Snooping is possible when you use a network that doesn’t have encryption.
Many public networks don’t, which makes them different than your home network. When you use your private internet at home, it has password protection, as well as encryption.
Public networks are different, and many don’t even have password protection to make them available to tourists and guests of hotels, restaurants, and the like.
However, besides being convenient, this makes them vulnerable to attacks.
When you use a network with encryption, your online actions are hidden from others.
If you use one without protection, then everything you do is out in the open for everyone else to see.
And if you use such networks to connect to your bank or social network, you will make your privacy available to others.
2. Compromised devices
When you are using your laptop or some other device in public, and you connect to an open WiFi, make sure to mark it as a public network.
If you do so, the device that you are using will lock down the connection. That means it gives the public WiFi network fewer permissions reducing the danger of getting attacked.
If you fail to do so, your device will treat it as a safe connection, which might lead to exposure.
In case someone hacks your device, they might get access to all of your private content and info.
That includes pictures, potential credentials, business documents, and everything else that you have.
3. Malicious WiFi hotspots
The most dangerous thing that can happen to you is to connect to a fake public network.
They will often have a name like Free WiFi, or Public Network, or something like that.
These are networks that hackers themselves set up, and then leave open, and without protection.
They do so in the hope that someone would connect without realizing the danger, and most people will do just that.
Not everyone knows about this method, and in fact, the majority don’t have a clue that this can even happen to them.
But, when they do connect to one such network, hackers will see everything that they do.
This is how they steal your online credentials, your business documents, contacts list, messages, emails, and everything else.
They can later use this info to break into your bank account, steal your identity, hijack your social networks, and generally ruin your life for their gain, or simply for their amusement.
Getting malware on your device via a WiFi hotspot that hacker controls is much simpler for them, and much more dangerous for you. Hackers can use malware for many things.
Some of them might only steal your files, photos, and similar data.
There is always a worse option, which is when malware downloads even more malware.
Eventually, the hacker might get complete control over your entire device. If that happens, there is no limit to what they can do, from locking down your phone to making it a part of a botnet.
5. WiFi sniffing
This method is pretty simple when it comes to its concept. Hackers will monitor network traffic and record big swathes of data that passes through.
They can inspect this data later, and try to find some useful information.
This method can lead to discovering someone’s credentials, and other personal information.
The consequences are many, and they might steal your money, and your identity, or blackmail you if they find some secret.
And the worst part is the fact that sniffing through packets of data is not even illegal most of the time.
It depends on the country’s laws, but not many choose to bother about things like this, that only affect several individuals at once.
Doing all of these things is very easy.
Most people imagine that you need a lot of technical knowledge, or maybe some expensive equipment to do so.
The truth is that almost anyone can do these things with an app or two, or some program of a higher quality.
Real technical knowledge is pretty much not even needed, and most instructions on how to do these things can be found pretty easily online.
You should have in mind that all of these dangers are a real threat, whether you are in your hometown, or a foreign country.
How to protect yourself from WiFi dangers
Now that you know what threats are out there, you should also learn how to recognize the danger.
Also, once you do recognize it, how to protect yourself?
Some of these methods are something that you will just have to remember, and others will do most of the job by themselves.
Your job is to try to remember as much as you can, and whenever you can, you should avoid public WiFi.
It might not be as convenient, but it is always recommended to wait until you get home. Now, let’s see what the methods of protection are.
- Double-check the network before using it.
False assumptions are what lead to most of these kinds of problems.
In short, you shouldn’t assume that a WiFi network is legitimate just because it says so.
You shouldn’t really use any unknown WiFi since you don’t know who it belongs to.
It might belong to a restaurant, coffee shop, or a nearby hotel, or it might belong to someone fishing for easy targets.
- Check your email and social networks on your own computer
Using public networks, and especially public computers for checking your social network, email, bank account and alike is out of the question.
You should always remember that because you never know who might be watching.
When you do things like that, do it from your own PC, on your own internet.
That way, you will know for sure that you are safe and that you are the only one who is watching.
- Update your software and antivirus
Your OS will get updates on a regular basis, which goes the same for all legitimate apps in your phone or tablet.
Installing these updates might be boring and annoying, but it is one of the best ways for you to stay safe.
New vulnerabilities are always being found and patched. If you have a system that did not patch old vulnerabilities, hackers might still bypass your protections.
Most of these updates will install themselves automatically, only if you allow that in your settings.
And the same goes for your antivirus, that won’t help much if you connect to a network that a hacker controls.
However, it will help a lot if they try to send you malware. That is why you need to keep it fresh and operational.
- Forget a hotspot when you leave
If you have no choice and it is an emergency, you will simply have to connect to a hotspot and do what you need to do.
However, we recommend doing what you must do as quickly as possible. And after you finish, forget the hotspot immediately.
You don’t want to risk your phone remembering it and reconnecting automatically every time when you get close to that hotspot.
That way, you might allow someone access without even knowing that you are in danger.
Having your phone remember the WiFi that you use is practical and convenient, but also very dangerous. This is a danger that you must not overlook, otherwise, trouble is sure to follow.
- Use A VPN
Finally, the best thing that you can do in order to protect yourself is to use a VPN.
Using them is cheap, it is easy, and they will follow you always, and protect you no matter where you are. Even if you connect to a public WiFi.
VPNs are Virtual Private Networks, and their main purpose is to help you stay safe online. They have multiple methods of doing so, which all add up to one big protective app that you can download on any device.
Depending on a VPN, there are different features that you can use to enhance your protection.
However, three main features are what they all have in common.
The first of them are security protocols. In order to keep your data safe, VPN can create a protective tunnel around your data flow.
Your data goes through this tunnel, and while it is inside, nobody can access it, see it, or record it. With this method, your online actions are safe and under strong protection.
The tunnels are not perfect, and there might be a leak. Still, there is nothing to worry about, because VPNs also encrypt your data, just in case something like this happens.
They use strong encryption that will keep everything you do protect. Even if someone somehow manages to get through your tunnel’s protection, they won’t know what they are seeing.
And these protections are so strong, that some of them have never been breached before.
Finally, they offer large server networks that can change your IP address.
Thanks to this, nobody will connect you to your online actions, since they will go to another IP address, and you will remain completely safe and anonymous.
As mentioned, VPNs offer a lot of extra features. Some of them serve as an enhancement to the existing methods of protection.
Such as DNS leak protection, which will make sure that your tunnel has an extra layer.
Others will make sure that your protection will remain even if something disturbs the connection. This is what kill switches do.
Which VPN to choose?
Because of their sudden popularity which keeps on increasing, there are now hundreds and hundreds of different providers. Choosing one is hard enough, but choosing a good one can be even worse.
That is why we have several suggestions for you, and those include:
All three of them are strong, fast, and cheap, and they will provide you with the best protection that you can find.
Using public WiFi hotspots is never a good idea.
But you sometimes can prevent and fight the dangers of public WiFi.
It is understandable, but you should still try to avoid doing it whenever possible.
However, when you find yourself in a situation where you have to use one, try to remember what you should and shouldn’t do.
Do not log into social networks, or emails, and especially don’t connect to your bank account. Also, try not to pick something that looks like it is offering itself too strongly.
And of course, subscribe to a VPN, and always have it on your devices.
Many VPNs allow multiple connections at once, which means that with one subscription, you can protect 3-5 of your devices at the same time.
So remember these things next time when you choose to connect to a public WiFi hotspot and try to stay safe.