The Dangers Of Public WiFi: 10 Facts You Need To Know

The Dangers Of Public WiFi: 10 Facts You Need To Know

Public WiFi is an incredibly useful tool for a writer that is on the go, and the good news is that it is proliferating everywhere to the point that if you go to a major city it is hard to avoid being able to access a public network. Yet with all of these great benefits there are risks you should be aware of as well, as there are cybercriminals and others out there who want to take advantage of you on public networks.

Here are some facts and tips about public WiFi that you need to know:

You Need a Security Program
You should have one anyway, but you absolutely need an anti-virus and anti-malware program if you are ever going to go use a public network (or the internet in general). Otherwise I can guarantee your computer isn’t going to last longer than three months and something on your computer will get hacked if you have anything even remotely interesting on it at all.


People Can Easily Monitor You
With a small amount of equipment and very little skill, hackers within the vicinity of your area (on the same wireless network as you) can take a look at whatever traffic they want that comes over an unprotected network. This can include your private information and browsing data, as well as a great deal of account info. This is the fact that makes cafĂ©’s hunting grounds for hackers.

Having a Terms and Conditions Page Does Not Make it Safer
Some public networks make you go through a confirmation page agreeing to the terms and conditions for using the network. This will mean nothing in terms of your security, as those pages in and of themselves don’t add any encryption, and a hacker can just click through that page as easily as you can. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security or even agree to just hand over your browsing information with one of these pages.

You Should Use a VPN
One of the absolute best things you can do if you use public networks a lot is to get yourself a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and stay a lot safer because of it. It will effectively create a secure bridge between your device (computer, tablet or phone) and an offsite (secure) server which will take care of your browsing for you and send you what you want over that secure connection.
What this means is that you will have the privacy and security that you desire and no one will be able to mess with you while you’re using public networks.

Not All Hotspots Are Equal
When you connect to a wireless hotspot you should be aware that when it comes to encryption and security not all of them are equal. Any hotspot you connect to will ideally have some form of encryption on it and you will still want a better form of encryption such as WPA2 instead of a weaker form like WEP. Any good hacker will be able to melt through the weaker protections like a hot knife through butter.

You Might Be Connecting Automatically
You may want to check to see what your phone or laptop does when finding a new network within its range. Some systems nowadays have a feature that you can activate that will have them connect to any network within its range.
This is something you should under no circumstances activate. The only network you should be automatically connecting to is a secure one in your home or office, and none others. People might be able to take a look at some of the data your phone automatically sends or receives without your phone even leaving your pocket.

You Need to Be Using Secure Websites
If you are using a public network, you should especially try to avoid websites that don’t have a form of protection on them such as https. Otherwise, you’re even more vulnerable than you would ordinarily be, and most of the large legitimate websites have some sort of protection on them meaning that you can feel just a little better on them.

Your Financial Transactions Are Not Safe
As a general rule, you should only do your online banking while you are at home. Your financial information has a high premium to it and you will not want to have to reset a lot of accounts and make a lot of unpleasant phone calls after a hacker takes off with your financial data. You might be safe if you have the best protections available, but otherwise your online shopping can wait until you get home.

Your Settings Can Help or Hurt You
When you check off your WiFi settings or network settings, you should pay attention to what you are doing. They can add an extra layer of protection to your computer or it be holding an “open” sign in neon lights for hackers to just waltz right in. Make sure you are secure in public networks and that you only loosen them up at home where you have more control.

Not All Providers are Trustworthy
While you probably connect to most networks without thinking about it, feeling that an official name or number of users means that the provider is trustworthy, you should probably reconsider that line of thought. Some business owners may want to mine the information they are getting for data and perhaps sell it or use it in another manner that wasn’t intended by you. Others might be worse and just steal your information hoping you’ll never find out how it got lost. Either way, you should think about the provider before you connect.
What other tips help you avoid problems with public networks? How else do you take precautions online? Share in the comments below.


About the Author: Caroline is a blogger at securethoughts.com, an expert source for tips on internet security and the best VPNs. She enjoys writing about online security and privacy, travel, and avoiding the dangers of public WiFi. 

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