Public Wi-Fi Security Risks
The convenience of public Wi-Fi is something that we’ve all taken advantage of. Technology makes it easier than ever to complete work or check emails on the go. But that Wi-Fi at your favorite neighborhood café may be not be as wonderful as it seems. The features that make free Wi-Fi hotspots desirable for patrons are the very features make them desirable for hackers. Because public Wi-Fi networks require no authentication to establish a network connection, they provide hackers with opportunities to get access to any unsecured devices on the same network.
The Risks of Public Wi-Fi
Hackers can use public Wi-Fi to steal your sensitive information—such as passwords, banking information, or emails—or to perform other activities, such as distribute malware. The main way they accomplish this is by having the ability to position themselves between you and the connection point on the public Wi-Fi. This means that instead of directly communicating with the public hotspot, your device is actually sending your sensitive information to the hacker. This allows every piece of information that you send over the Internet connection (including emails, credit card information and even business security credentials) to be viewed and stolen by the hacker. Once the hacker has your information, they can access your accounts as if they were you. You’re essentially having your identity stolen along with your information.
Minimizing Public Wi-Fi Security Risks
You may be tempted to vow to never use a hot spot again because of the number of public Wi-Fi security risks, however, it’s important to realize there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of being hacked. The following easy steps will help you to stay secure:
- Use a VPN- Using a virtual private network (VPN) connection will make your data strongly encrypted. This stops you from being an easy target and increases the likelihood that a hacker won’t spend the time going through a lengthy decryption process to gain access to your information.
- Use SSL Connections- Enabling the "Always Use HTTPS" option on websites that you visit frequently adds an extra layer of encryption protection to your information. Much like a VPN, it will lessen the likelihood that your information will be accessed.
- Turn Off Sharing- Disabling the sharing option in your computer’s control panel is a great way to protect your self against malware.
- Keep Wi-Fi Off When You Don’t Need It- If you’re working in a program that doesn’t require the Internet (such as Word or Excel) disable the Internet connection altogether.
We all will need to use public Wi-Fi at some time or another but understanding public Wi-Fi risks and how to minimize them means that you can enjoy modern technology without fear. Following the easy steps above is a great way to help yourself stay secure.
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