Public Wi-Fi is incredibly convenient and can be found just about everywhere – from coffee shops and airports to restaurants and hotels. These networks allow you to stay online on the go and are mostly free to use, making them a great alternative to mobile data.
However, did you know that using public Wi-Fi exposes your data to hackers? More often than not, poor configuration and the lack of encryption is to blame. As such, Wi-Fi users can fall victim to identity theft or have their credit card information stolen.
Doesn’t sound like fun, no? But let’s face it; this might be the result if you continue to connect your laptop or mobile phone to random public Wi-Fi networks without taking the necessary measures to keep your data secure.
How Hackers Use Public Wi-Fi to Steal Personal Data?
Public Wi-Fi networks are go-to spots for cybercriminals, and why wouldn’t they be? Even though compromising them doesn’t take too much effort, most people connect to them without even thinking twice. When you’re using public Wi-Fi, your privacy can be invaded utilizing a variety of techniques, including but not limited to:
Using readily available tools like packet analyzers – which are not only legal but also extremely easy to use – hackers can monitor and intercept all the network traffic to collect your sensitive login information or personal details. Think hacking is difficult? Think again. It has never been this easy.
2. Evil Twin
As the name implies, these are rogue networks operated by cyber thieves. Since they look similar to a real one nearby, Wi-Fi users connect to them thinking it’s the actual network of a restaurant or coffee shop. However, in reality, all of their traffic goes through the evil twin, allowing the bad guys to steal their personal information.
Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks are one of the most common public threats you’ll encounter while using public Wi-Fi. Basically, it consist of a malicious actor standing in between your device and the web server you’re trying to access. This enables them to monitor all the incoming and outgoing traffic and intercept sensitive data – all without your knowledge!
Malware is dangerous, and once it has successfully infected your device, attackers can gain access to your files or steal your bandwidth, among other things. Malware can be slipped in at any point when you’re using an unsecured public Wi-Fi network. Moreover, since they’re designed to be imperceptible, detecting and getting rid of them can be extremely difficult!
Virtual Private Networks – The Right Way to Use Public Wi-Fi!
If you’re wondering how to use public Wi-Fi networks safely, equipping yourself with a robust virtual private network (VPN) is your best bet. It not only protects your privacy on the Internet but also keeps you secure on public Wi-Fi.
How? Well, it establishes a secure tunnel between your device and the Internet. All your traffic is passed through this connection and encrypted in the process, making it close to impossible for your data to be deciphered or intercepted.
Moreover, your original IP address and location is also replaced with that of the VPN server. This keeps your identity hidden from any prying eyes and even allows you to access restricted websites and services from anywhere.
All you need to do is install the VPN app on your preferred device, connect to a VPN server of your choice, and you can then hop on any public Wi-Fi network without having to worry about your data getting stolen.
But with so many VPN services to choose from, which one is worth your time? Our top pick is none other than PureVPN. Based in Hong Kong, it has a global network of 2,000+ VPN servers and 300,000+ IPs in 141+ countries.
There are easy-to-use apps available for all major mobile and desktop platforms, including a Windows, Linux, and Mac VPN client. With PureVPN, there’s no device that you cannot enjoy top-of-the-line VPN protection on.
Must-have features such as AES 256-bit encryption, Internet kill switch, DNS leak protection, and split tunneling take your privacy and security to another level – whether you’re using a private or public Wi-Fi network!
5 Other Ways to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
Make sure you don’t forget to follow these basic precautions when using public Wi-Fi. After all, if you don’t be wary of trouble yourself, even the most sophisticated security tools won’t be able to protect you.
Without further ado, here’s what to do and avoid on public Wi-Fi networks:
- Disable File Sharing – You should turn off the file sharing option on your laptop while using public Wi-Fi. Failure to do so means that other people on the network can easily share your files.
- Turn Off Automatic Connections – This prevents your device from automatically connecting to trusted networks. You’ll never be able to tell whether it’s an evil twin if you’re already connected to it!
- Set Up Two-Factor Authentication – If your online accounts allow it, you should use two-factor authentication. It will make it considerably harder for anyone to break into your social, banking, and other accounts if they’re able to steal your credentials.
- Use a Firewall –If your firewall isn’t turned on, you should do so right away for increased protection against unauthorized access.
- Install HTTPS Everywhere – The browser extension, which is available on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, ensures the communications between you and the website you’re visiting is secured with encryption.
Wrapping Things Up
If you’ve never considered the risks of public Wi-Fi networks before, all of this can be quite unsettling. However, while there are privacy risks associated with public Wi-Fi, what’s important to remember is that there are things you can do.
Not that you know the most effective ways to use public Wi-Fi safely, and realize the significance of using a VPN in such situations, you can connect to these networks without worrying about your data falling into the wrong hands.