The Dangers of Public Wi-Fi And How to Stay Safe

Jeremy Hill
August 30, 2017

Public Wi-Fi has made the world a better place for all of us. It helps us stay connected to work, family and friends all day long. It is because of this extensive nature that we can check our smartphones in malls, events, offices, campuses, and literally wherever we go. Though the number of benefits for open Wi-Fi network is high, the potential for breaches associated to them is even higher.

What makes these open networks so insecure? Regrettably, there are two answers to this question – first is ‘the network administrator’ and the second is ‘the users’.

When somebody uses a public Wi-Fi network, each user uses the same encryption key, making their personal device open to others. Though every person should have a unique encryption key; it would make the network more complex and difficult to use.

Honestly, the primary mission of most hotspot administrators is to minimise the number of calls to the support desk. Keeping things simple means their workloads are lessened and users are blissfully ignorant. But this also keeps the network too open and easily accessible by hackers.

With the increasing number of public Wi-Fi networks and the pace of mobile data transfers, the use of public Wi-Fi is significant to the growing security risk as well. Attacks can compromise passwords, email accounts, credit card data, social security numbers, etc. The hackers will also be able to snoop on communications, gain access to bank accounts, steal corporate information and infect IT systems.

But what can users do to secure their data while using Wi-Fi networks? Let’s refer to some tips:

Always Choose Secure Networks

When given an option between an open and a password protected network, always choose the latter. It might require a fee, but it is worth a few quid to connect to a protected network and avoid the potential risks involved with open network connections. If a secure network is not an option, you can also use your phone as a password-protected hotspot or invest in a Mi-Fi device.

Turn off the Sharing Settings

Smartphone applications and some mobile settings allow easy sharing of location, photos, and funds. Using all these sharing applications while being connected to your own network is fine, but keeping the sharing settings on and revealing all your important information to the public Wi-Fi networks can welcome unwanted intruders to access your personal data.

Make sure that you turn all data sharing settings off on your smart devices before connecting to a public Wi-Fi network.

Disable Wi-Fi When Not in Use

Another approach to reduce the opportunity for Wi-Fi attackers viewing your personal information is to limit the amount of time they could actually access your device using Wi-Fi. When your device is not in use, take a moment to disable the Wi-Fi before putting it back in your bag.

Also make sure that you ‘forget’ the network on your device after use, so that it doesn’t automatically connect the next time your device is Wi-Fi enabled in that area.

Use HTTPS or a VPN

If using a public network, always check for the lock icon in your browser before entering any information on a website. In addition, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can secure all your browsing sessions by encrypting the traffic between server and the device, helping you protect online information from intruders.

On smartphones, you can set a VPN from the settings, and on a laptop, using a WPN client like Avast.

Update Your Browser and Apps in Advance

Make sure that you always update your apps and browser well in advance. This is important because certain online attacks are initiated by prompting the device users to update certain applications. Once you have accepted a prompt by an attacker, they might get access to install the malware on your device. Any application which doesn’t have the latest update is vulnerable to fresh attacks, as company’s regularly roll out security patches to protect against the latest threats.

An easy way to avoid this is to ensure that all the applications in your phone are updated, so that you can safely avoid accepting any prompts ignorantly.

We hope that the above mentioned tips will help you avoid being another cybercrime victim. For any questions regarding the same, let us know in the comment section below.

Stay Safe!

About the Author

Jeremy Hill

Jeremy Hill is associated with JemJem as an editor. JemJem is top online retailer of refurbished apple devices in the USA. He enjoys creating, uncovering and disseminating new and interesting perspectives on technology and mobile phones.

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