The Dangers of Public WiFi

As our lives become more reliant on an internet connections, public WiFi can be a lifesaver at times- however there’s a host of dangers associated with using a public WiFi signal. Anything from access to your personal information and emails, malware attacks and potential to have your financial accounts compromised is possible for a sophisticated hacker looking to take advantage of a public WiFi signal.

Compounding the problem is the fact that, according to a recent report, 82% of the 980 people that responded to a survey said they connect to any freely available network while out in public, largely in the interest of saving mobile data. Of those people, 71% of the respondents said they weren’t concerned at all about security while using a public WiFi connection; just 9% said they were concerned.

'Talk like you’re being listened to, browse like someone’s watching.'

This stuff can be difficult to understand, so let’s break it down into an analogy. Think of your laptop or phone talking to the internet like a conversation you're having in a cafe. If you talk loud enough, the people sitting near you can hear - and understand - everything you're saying to your friend. If you tell your friend your phone number, or your password, everyone else in the coffee shop could hear it- even write it down.

A public WiFi network is just like the loud conversation that happens in english. Anyone in the coffee shop with their own laptop can "listen in" on what you are sending and receiving to/from the internet.

To combat this, you could use a foreign language that nobody else in the coffee shop understands, they might be able to hear you, but they won't be able to understand you. A private or protected hotspot is like speaking a foreign language -- in that everyone can hear what you're saying, but they won't understand (it's encrypted)... So even though they can hear everything you're saying, it's no good to them.

The problem remaining is that with so many public WiFi signals available to the public, it’s easier than ever to forget about the volume of your ‘conversation’ in the cafe, where someone could potentially listen in on your private conversations. Ubiquity doesn’t ensure security- in this context, it means the exact opposite, in fact, as sophisticated cyber criminals realise how to exploit people’s complacency when it comes to what they access over a public WIFI signal.

“One of the ways information can be stolen,” according to Aussie Broadband “is through a party-in-the-middle-attack or a ‘packet-sniffing’ attack. The hacker intercepts your connection when your device is sending information to the WiFi router. As you load your email, bank account login or social media, the hacker continues to relay the information onto the router, so you’re unaware anything unusual is happening. Vulnerabilities in the router setup or in your device and the apps could allow hackers to gain access to any data transmitted between your phone or computer and the WiFi router. This could include log-in details for your work or business intranet or database.”

Do’s and Don'ts While Using Public WIFI

-Don’t do your banking using public WiFi, no matter how ‘safe’ the bank’s application is.

-Use a https browser extension; https ensures the sites your browsing are better secured.

-Turn off ‘auto-connect’ and ‘sharing’ on your device, so as little of your data is shared back with the network as possible.

-Invest in a VPN.

-Keep WIFI switched off as much as possible.

-Stay protected with anti-virus software.

Reference: Kaspersky's Public Wifi Risks

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