Public Wi-Fi refers to Wi-Fi that is accessible in public place like airports, cafes, hotels, parks, malls and universities among others. Free Wi-Fi is one of the fringe benefits that some businesses offer their customers. It is immensely popular among a lot of people largely, because of its cheap, convenient aspects and the limitless data usage that it offers.
Indeed, it is an invaluable resource for academic activities, hence its availability in university structures and public spaces within the environs. However, public Wi-Fi is something of a Trojan horse: cheap, convenient but dangerous. This is because most times, these public networks are not secured channels and so there are some threats that you will be exposed to when you are on these public networks.
These kinds of threats are similar to eavesdropping in normal human relations. Only, it is a lot more dangerous, in the digital context. Hackers are able to access the data sent from your device (laptop, computer, mobile phone) to its destination. They do this by positioning themselves between both points.
So while you think you are “interacting” with the hotspot, you are actually sending info to a cybercriminal. At this point, they have access to any piece of information you put out and it is only a matter of time before they get their hands on personal data that they can use for their profit.
Hackers have since advanced from that level. They have now mastered the manipulation of devices to the point of using malware to “mine” cryptocurrency.
Distribution of Malware
Malware is malicious software or tools used by hackers. Hackers exploit the vulnerabilities in an operating system or software program to distribute malware that infects devices. The infected devices then become “puppets” that are manipulated by hackers for nefarious purposes.
Snooping and Sniffing
Hackers are able to eavesdrop on Wi-Fi signals. This is called Wi-Fi snooping and sniffing. It allows hackers to access everything that you are doing online. As a result of this, they are also able to clone your login details which they can use to steal your money or identity.
These are access points that trick unsuspecting internet user into connecting to a seemingly legitimate network. Like the name suggests, these hotspots allow hackers to view the sensitive information that your online activity reveals. They then exploit whatever information they get there for their gain.
When you use a public Wi-Fi for whatever purpose, your data and online activity are like open books which anyone who is interested can read. There is no privacy whatsoever. Neither is there any security. Assume that others have access to your private information. If for some reason, you must use a public Wi-Fi, you should take some of the following measures to avoid the threats listed above:
VPN is also known as Virtual Private Network. It is a service that lets you access the web safely and privately by routing your connection through a server that hides your online actions. It protects the confidentiality and integrity of data as it travels over the internet.
When you start the VPN client (software from your VPN service) the software encrypts your data before your internet service provider or Wi-Fi provider sees it. This means that it cannot be read except the person has the encryption key. Without VPN anyone can easily access your data.
With a VPN, these risks are reduced if not completely eliminated.
VPN essentially allows you to secure a virtual tunnel through the internet to another network or device. It could be used to access region-restricted websites. VPN services are expensive but would you rather lose vital information that could lead to financial and identity among other things?
In our opinion, your security is worth the cost. We also believe that VPN is the best way to surf the internet via a public network. It even gets better when you use well reviewed Surfshark VPN as it’s new in the industry and at the same time reputable.
Employ SSL Connections
If we were to rank these options, we would deservedly place this option second to VPN services because the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a cheaper and less effective alternative to VPN services. You can at least secure some of your data via an SSL connection to the websites you visit. SSL is a layer of encryption used in web browsers to protect your data. Hackers understand this, that is why they try to divert you from SSL protected websites.
Ensure that you are protected by always using HTTPS on websites that require a login. Download HTTPS Everywhere extension that is available on the more popular browsers like Chrome. This extension automatically activates HTTP for websites where it is supported.
Enable Your Computer’s Firewall
If you do not have the resources for a VPN service, you could use the firewall protection on your computer. Be sure to enable it BEFORE connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot. Not AFTER.