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  • Writer's pictureNexix Security Labs

How To Safely Use Public Wi-Fi

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Walk into any coffee shop during the week and you will see patrons typing away on laptops at most of the tables. Many entrepreneurs, students, and business people use these places as a second office.

"What's your Wi-Fi password?" is one of the most often asked inquiries in those coffee shops, according to the staff. The same thing happens to hotel employees all the time.

Most people using public Wi-Fi have a lot of valuable and potentially sensitive information on their devices, some of which could be dangerous if a hacker gets their hands on it. Unfortunately, the majority of public Wi-Fi users are likely unaware of the dangers they are exposed to.

If you want to be secure while using public Wi-Fi, you must first understand the hazards. We created a list to assist you to identify the 7 hazards of public Wi-Fi and what you can do to protect yourself in order to give you the tools you need to work as safely and securely as possible in public settings.

1. Theft of Personal Information

The theft of personal information is one of the most significant and common risks. Personal data can take a variety of forms:

  1. Login Credentials

  2. Financial Information's

  3. Personal Data

  4. Pictures

If a hacker gains access to your computer or other personal devices over a hacked public Wi-Fi network, they may have complete control over anything you keep. They might, for example, gain access to your login credentials and connect to the website of your bank or credit card.

Once hackers have your personal information, they can access your personal pages and ruin your finances and reputation. Even if they don't have complete access to your computer's data, they may be able to intercept the information you send over the Internet. This threat will be discussed in greater depth in the near future.

2. Cyber Attacks on Businesses

Business travelers and others on the go can use public Wi-Fi to check their emails, download files, evaluate customer information, and perform a variety of other operations that require a network connection.

Although most organizations have security measures in place to limit the risk of connecting through Wi-Fi, there are still concerns when using a public connection if you or your coworkers need to enter into some form of security tool to gain access to the company's network.

You never know what the Wi-Fi provider is tracking, for example. Although many public connections are free to use, this does not mean that they are without expense. It's possible that your Wi-Fi provider is monitoring everything you do on the network and selling your information to advertising.

Another way to look about it is that if you aren't paying for a service, someone else may be paying for data about their users. You can't always trust that you're connecting to a valid Wi-Fi network, which leads us to the next potential danger.

3. Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

When someone "impersonates" a legitimate public Wi-Fi service in order to deceive you into connecting, this is known as a Man-In-The-Middle attack. Let's pretend you're spending the night in a SleepTight hotel. The hotel provides free Wi-Fi to its guests, so turn on your laptop, switch on Wi-Fi, and look for the network "SleepTyte". You can overlook the small misspelling if you aren't paying close enough attention.

In actuality, the SleepTyte network is a person in a room down the hall who has built up their own hotspot to entice unsuspecting visitors. When you connect to it, the Internet works as expected, so there's no reason to be concerned. However, everything you do while connected to that network is routed through the hacker's computer. Those "man-in-the-middle" could have access to all of your login information, passwords, and anything else you do while connected to the Internet over Wi-Fi.

4. Unencrypted Connections

When you connect to a website that uses encryption, the data you send and receive is encrypted with a secure key. If someone intercepted the data without having the key, they would be unable to read it since it would appear to be unreadable computer code.

However, not all websites provide encryption. The HTTP prefix, which appears before the domain name, indicates this. It's an encrypted site if the URL begins with HTTPS. It is not encrypted if the web address only contains HTTP.

Anyone within range of your computer can intercept whatever you send or receive while you're linked to a public Wi-Fi network. It will all be totally readable if you are connecting to an unencrypted website. How may your network communication be intercepted? They use the next danger on the list.

5. Packet Sniffing/ Eavesdropping

A packet analyzer, often known as a packet sniffer, can be used by anyone connected to the same Wi-Fi network as you to listen in on what you send and receive. These programs allow you to see everything that is sent over your Wi-Fi network, as long as it isn't encrypted.

These tools aren't necessarily harmful. You can utilize them for good or harm, just like any other tool. Network administrators can use packet sniffers to diagnose connection issues and other performance issues with their wireless networks (good). On the other hand, they let hackers access the information of other users and steal anything of worth (bad).

6. Malware Distribution

Another danger that can arise when utilizing public Wi-Fi is the infection of your device with malware. Malware comes in a variety of shapes and sizes:

  • Viruses

  • Worms

  • Trojan Horses

  • Ransomware

If you are using a public Wi-Fi network with someone who has malicious intent, they may be able to install malware on your computer if it is not adequately protected. A shady Wi-Fi provider could infect your PC with one or more of these vulnerabilities by using the hotspot itself.

It may be as simple as placing adverts on every website you visit utilizing the Wi-Fi network. Although the website itself does not display advertisements, the Wi-Fi service can do so on top of other websites. When you unplug from the Wi-Fi and reconnect to your home or workplace connection, the advertising should generally disappear. They may also install malware on your personal devices that would persist across all connections in more extreme circumstances.

7. Session Hijacking

Another concern to public Wi-Fi security is session hijacking. An attacker intercepts data about your machine and its connection to websites or other services in this situation. Once the attacker has that information, he can set up his computer to look like yours and take over the connection.

After you log in to your bank's website, for example, hackers could hijack your connection. From the bank's perspective, it would appear to be your computer, and because you are already logged in, the attacker would have full access to your account.

How to Protect Yourself From the Dangers of Public WiFi

If you must use public Wi-Fi, there are a few steps you can take to assist protect yourself from these dangers. Some are more effective than others, but it's important to remember that hackers like to take the shortest path possible. If you've taken precautions to defend yourself, they'll most likely move on to a less difficult target.

Don't Share Anything Private

If you must use public Wi-Fi, there are a few steps you can take to assist protect yourself from these dangers. Some are more effective than others, but it's important to remember that hackers like to take the shortest path possible. If you've taken precautions to defend yourself, they'll most likely move on to a less difficult target.

Use A VPN Service

Everything you send and receive over a Wi-Fi network is encrypted through a virtual private network or VPN. It'll be encrypted whether or not the Wi-Fi network or website you're on supports encryption.

With a VPN, you connect to the VPN server over an encrypted connection, and all of your activities are routed through that server. Anyone attempting to eavesdrop or intercept the data will be unable to read it in any case.

Use 2-Factor Authentication

A security mechanism known as two-factor authentication is used by many websites that deal with sensitive information (2FA). This is a backup authentication mechanism that works in conjunction with your password.

It sends you a unique code after you enter your username and password using either a dedicated app on your smartphones, such as Google Authenticator, or text messaging. Even if a hacker has your login details, they won't be able to log in without the 2FA code.

Use Cellular Data or a Mobile Hotspot

The best method to prevent public Wi-Fi security issues is to stay away from it altogether. We recommend using a cellular data connection instead of connecting to public Wi-Fi. A digital eSIM solution, a physical overseas travel SIM card, or a mobile hotspot can all be used to do this.

Digital eSIM is supported by the latest smartphones and tablets, making traditional SIM cards obsolete. Without the need to replace physical SIM cards or carry an extra physical device, solutions like the Goodspeed app for iPhone and iPad enable a safe and secure connection.

A portable hotspot could be a good option if you need to give a secure internet connection to several devices. Mobile hotspots can be shared among multiple users, making them an excellent corporate solution.

The methods outlined above provide a secure private connection that is far more secure than a public connection. It will also be much faster in most circumstances because you will not be sharing the connection with anybody else.

Avoid Letting Yourself Get Complacent

It's natural that the convenience of public Wi-Fi can be difficult to resist. The perils of public Wi-Fi, on the other hand, should make you think twice about utilizing it for any type of sensitive data. Make sure you don't fall into the trap.

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