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Beware of Security Risks Lurking Behind Public Wi-Fi

By Katelyn Orrok | Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Public Wi-Fi networks are incredibly convenient and can be a great resource for airport layovers, coffee shop meetings or lengthy train commutes, but alongside convenience are a host of unnecessary risks. On open, unsecure networks, information is generally unencrypted, meaning with the use of a wireless network analyzer, it’s fairly easy to see what others are up to. What attackers try to do is intercept the communication between your computer and the computer you are sending information to so that they can gather useful information. A hacker, for instance, can see what webpages you’ve visited and what credentials you’ve entered into forms.

Common attacks that occur on public Wi-Fi include:

Man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM)

Attackers will set up their own network between your computer and the computer you are connecting to so that all the information you enter is first routed through their device.

Malware

If a hacker is able to insert malware across the Wi-Fi network, he/she could gain access to everything on your connected device. They can steal your files and pictures and have access to turn on your camera and microphone.

Wi-Fi Sniffing

Sometimes attackers are lurking and casually keeping records of all network traffic. Then they’re able to analyze it and identify valuable information such as usernames, passwords, bank account details, etc.

How do you protect yourself from the dangers of public Wi-Fi?

  • Change your phone settings so as not to automatically connect to open networks.

  • Check your phone settings to ensure that your apps are not automatically transmitting data.

  • If you do use public Wi-Fi, do not access your bank account or other sensitive websites, and don’t enter personal information such as credit card numbers.

  • Look into a virtual private network (VPN) service. Although these services cost money, it is a steeper price to pay when your finances and identity are stolen.

  • Make sure you're connecting to a real network. If you're in doubt, ask the proprietor. Attackers will set up malicious hotspots at coffee shops, airports and other popular locations that closely resemble the legitimate network.

  • Consider using your cellular data instead of connecting to public Wi-Fi.

  • Enable two-factor authentication on every website to ensure an added layer of security for your sensitive information.

Read more on Internet safety and security:

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