Free or Public Wi-Fi
Ever since the boom of smartphones, the whole world is experiencing an unprecedented urge to remain connected to the internet all the time. Telecom operators are coming up with various lucrative data plans to lure customers. While some of us are dependent on mobile data for accessing the internet, some of us use Public Wi-Fi. And when the Wi-Fi is available for free, it will attract many to relish upon the free service. Be it an airport or a restaurant or a shopping mall, and free Wi-Fi is being set up everywhere so that people do not get disconnected from the online world on the go.
The government is also moving into collaboration with IT giants like Google to set up free Wi-Fi zones in India to enable a broader range of the population to access the internet. This is a boon for humanity for sure, but have you assessed the public Wi-Fi security? If no, read on while we put some light on some potential security threats of it and learn how to ensure safety from public Wi-Fi.
Dangers of public Wi-Fi:
Most of the public Wi-Fi networks do not have proper authentication processes in place. Anyone, in the vicinity of the Wi-Fi zone, can connect to it without any authorised credentials. At this point, free Wi-Fi opens doors for hackers to move into the network. The hackers can now monitor the web sessions and cause harmful attacks to your device or information by illicit means like IP spoofing.
One of the standard dangers of public Wi-Fi is where the attacker places himself between the user and the network access point by manipulating the security loopholes of the network. As the name suggests, you fall prey to data theft by the attacker in the middle who gets access to your web sessions and can steal sensitive information like passwords or financial information.
According to the Managing Director of Kaspersky of South Asia region, Sidejacking is a form of Cyber-attack where hackers completely exploit an active web session through compromised access credentials. Email accounts, Social networking sites are mostly targeted by attackers in this form.
It has become quite normal for smartphone users to connect to a Wi-Fi network whenever they find one immediately. Hackers often use this opportunity to set up a rogue network with an inviting name like ‘Free Wi-Fi’ or names resembling famous stores and malls to allow users to connect to it easily. Once the users move into the trap, hackers can easily exploit the sessions to cause potential data theft.
In an unsecured public network, people who keep the file sharing option enabled on their devices often fall victim to attackers while hackers inject harmful malware into the user’s device. In some instances, hackers take control of the entire access point and infect all the devices connected to the network.
How to be safe in such a scenario?
Don’t use public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions
The prime target of the attackers today is to get financial information such as debit or credit card details and bank information of users. So it is highly advisable to refrain from accessing internet banking websites or doing personal transactions over the public Wi-Fi.
Disable File-sharing on your device
As mentioned earlier your device becomes vulnerable to malware if the file sharing option is turned on. So always keep it disabled unless there is an urgency to use it. According to security professional of Norton, IP spoofing has been a common way of data theft in the recent years.
Keep your Firewall turned on
The built-in firewalls of Windows or Mac are powerful enough to restrict various potential threats. Keeping it disabled is never a wise choice irrespective of the network you connect to. Make sure that it is ON and updated while you’re using public Wi-Fi.
Keep your OS and software Patched and up-to-date
Windows and Mac regularly release patches to address the various security threats. The software’s also keep releasing versions to close the loopholes in their products. So using updated software or the operating systems ensure safety form the cyber threats to a great extent.
Try to use mobile data
Though it is not always to possible to use mobile data plans due to their high prices or low network strength, it is beneficial and safe to do your important internet browsing or mailing using the mobile data plan to avoid public Wi-Fi threats.
Whenever in a public Wi-Fi, one way to ensure security from attackers within that network is to create a password-protected virtual private network (VPN) of your own. The VPN restricts the hackers to access your web sessions, and hence they’re very safe.
The possibilities and consequences of security threats in public networks are very high and dreadful. An uninformed user often finds him trapped in the web of hackers losing out sensitive personal information. So be informed and avoid the dangers of public Wi-Fi.