You can go into almost any establishment today and find a free WiFi hotspot. Medical offices, coffee shops, and even grocery stores are now offering free WiFi access to their customers. While this luxury is convenient and usually cost-free, there are some risks to consider. Because most free WiFi access points do not require any authentication, it’s easy for a hacker to get access to devices on the network- putting both your device and you at risk.
One of the biggest risks is that the hacker can set up to be between your device and the WiFi connection. So instead of sending credentials, log-in information, or sensitive web forms to the WiFi, you are sending them straight to the hacker. The hacker can access emails, financial information, social media accounts, etc. The hacker can then store that information and access it later, long after your device is disconnected from that particular WiFi. Hackers not only can use unsecured network connections to steal your information but also plant malware.
With mobile WiFi access points becoming more common, Internet security issues will become a larger issue over time. It is also important to understand that all devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, are vulnerable.
Here are some simple ways to protect your devices and information when using public WiFi hotspots:
- Always use ‘HTTPS’. Enabling this option on websites that you use frequently can add an extra layer of encryption.
- Check the legitimacy. Make sure to ask an employee for the establishment’s official WiFi name and/or IP address. A hacker could set up a look-a-like network with a similar name of the place you are at.
- Choose ‘Public’. Usually, when your device is connecting to a new network, it will ask you to choose between a few different options. Choosing the ‘Public’ network option will turn off sharing from the control panel, so others aren’t able to see your information.
- Avoid certain websites. If you are able to, avoid shopping online, accessing banking information, or logging into social media accounts while on a public network.
- Protect your device. Before browsing the Internet, checking emails, and especially using public WiFi, make sure your device has an active anti-malware subscription installed and running.