The same features that make free Wi-Fi hotspots appealing to consumers also appeal to hackers: no authentication is required to establish a network connection. This provides the hacker with an incredible opportunity to gain unrestricted access to unsecured devices on the same network.
The ability of a hacker to position himself between you and the connection point poses the greatest threat to free Wi-Fi security. Instead of speaking directly with the hotspot, you’re sending your data to the hacker, who then passes it on to chevalier.
The hacker has access to every piece of information you send out on the Internet while working in this setup: important emails, credit card information, and even security credentials for your business network. Once the hacker has that information, he can access your systems as if he were you whenever he wants.
An unsecured Wi-Fi connection can also be used by hackers to spread malware. If you allow file sharing across a network, a hacker can easily infect your computer with malicious software. Some clever hackers have even hacked the connection point itself, causing a pop-up window to appear during the connection process offering an upgrade to a popular piece of software. The malware is installed by clicking the window.
You can expect Internet security issues and public Wi-Fi risks to become more prevalent as mobile Wi-Fi becomes more common. This does not, however, imply that you must abandon free Wi-Fi and return to your desk. The majority of hackers are looking for easy prey, so taking a few precautions should keep your data safe.
How to Avoid Public Wi-Fi Security Risks
Install a VPN
When connecting to your business via an unsecured connection, such as a Wi-Fi hotspot, a virtual private network (VPN) connection should be used. Even if a hacker manages to get into the middle of your connection, the data will be heavily encrypted. Most hackers will discard stolen information rather than putting it through a lengthy decryption process because they are looking for an easy target.
Make use of SSL connections
Although you are unlikely to have a VPN available for general Internet browsing, you can still encrypt your communications. On websites that you visit frequently or that require you to enter credentials, enable the “Always Use HTTPS” option. Remember that hackers are aware of how people reuse passwords, so your username and password for some random forum could be the same as your bank or corporate network, and sending these credentials in an unencrypted manner could give a smart hacker access to your account. The “HTTPS” option is found somewhere in the settings of most websites that require an account or credentials.
If you aren’t using Wi-Fi, turn it off.
The Wi-Fi hardware in your computer is still transmitting data between any networks within range even if you haven’t actively connected to one. There are security measures in place to keep this minor communication from compromising you, but not all wireless routers are created equal, and hackers can be quite cunning. Keep your Wi-Fi turned off if you’re just working on a Word or Excel document on your computer. You’ll also have a much longer battery life as a bonus.
You’re unlikely to want to share anything when using the Internet in a public place. Depending on your OS, you can disable sharing from the system preferences or Control Panel, or let Windows do it for you by selecting the “Public” option the first time you connect to an unsecured network.
Install internet security software
Even those who take all possible public Wi-Fi security precautions will encounter problems from time to time. In this interconnected age, it’s just a fact of life. That’s why having a reliable Internet security solution installed and running on your computer is critical. These solutions can continuously scan your files for malware and will scan new files as they are downloaded. Top consumer security software will also include business protection features, allowing you to protect yourself while out and about while also protecting your servers at work.
There will come a time in every business traveler’s life when an unsecured, free public Wi-Fi hotspot is the only connection available, and your work must be completed immediately. Understanding the dangers of using public Wi-Fi will help you avoid becoming another hacking statistic.
The Nihka Technology Group is a South African technology company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Group is focused on bringing the digital future to both the private and public sectors, locally and globally by delivering innovative, integrated technologies and intelligent solutions. Nihka offers end-to-end multi-dimensional consulting with an emphasis on integrating the human potential. Bringing EQ into AI.