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The Risks of Using Public Wifi


So, you're enjoying some coffee at your local coffee shop casually using the free Wi-Fi to check your bank account. Sounds safe enough, right? Wrong. Although this paints a typical scene for most of us, many are unaware of the dangers lurking in the background of public signals. Because these hotspots are so frequently used, people often connect to them without giving it a second thought. Some businesses may believe they're providing a valuable service to their customers, but in reality, they could be benefiting hackers instead.

Hackers Can Easily Invade Your Privacy

The same features that make free Wi-Fi hotspots desirable for you also make them desirable for hackers. Logging on doesn't require a network connection, which seems great if you're on the go or in an unfamiliar place, but this creates an opportunity for unwanted access. Hackers can eavesdrop on you and the connection point, so instead of talking directly with the hotspot, your conversation is going through the hacker first.

When a computer connects to the internet, information is sent from the computer to the service/website. Vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to squeeze into this transmission and read your private data. Unfortunately, cybercriminals can even buy special software and devices that help them access everything you are doing online from pages you have visited to your various account login information. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't use public Wi-Fi, but there are eight things you can do to protect your information:

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) connection is critical when connecting to your business through an unsecured connection like a hotspot. Even if a hacker manages to position himself in the middle of your connection, the data will be strongly encrypted, meaning they will be completely blocked from seeing your information.

If you are unable to use a VPA, use an SSL connection.

You aren't likely to have a VPN available for general internet browsing, but you can still add a layer of encryption to your communication. Enable the "Always Use HTTPS" option on websites that you visit frequently or that require user credentials. Remember, hackers understand how people reuse passwords so your username and password for a random forum may be the same as it is for your bank or corporate network. Sending these credentials in an unencrypted manner could open the door to any knowledgeable hacker. Other tips include:

  • Don't allow your Wi-Fi to auto-connect to networks
  • Turn your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off when you are not using them
  • Don't access websites that hold your private data
  • Don't log onto a network that doesn't require a password
  • Log out of your accounts when you aren't using them
  • Disable file sharing while surfing the web

Nobody wants their information stolen, especially if you own a business and have large quantities of sensitive data. Using these tips will help protect your personal and private information safe from the hands of hackers and the damage they can cause. 

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