Have you ever gone into a coffee shop and used their Wi-Fi services? If you have, then that’s a public Wi-Fi. Coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and malls are the most common places we connect with Wi-Fi hotspots. We usually don’t even consider the risks.
Today our online security risk is at an all-time high. You might not know this but cybercrime has never been higher. With all the new reports we hear about cybercrime we can’t help but wonder, is using public Wi-Fi safe? Because it just could be that is what compromises our system security.
Is Using Public Wi-Fi Safe?
The simple answer is that no. It is not safe. There are thousands of security risks lurking around the internet. Those risks are double when the connection in use is a public hotspot. When your device connects to a public hotspot, it becomes part of the network.
That means it can be accessed by other people in the network. Of course, not everyone in a coffee shop is a cybercriminal. But all it takes is one person. Fortunately, there are ways that you can use public hotspots safely.
What Kind of Security Risks are there?
Since we know the answer to the question, is using public Wi-Fi safe, is an absolute no. Let’s look at some of the risks that you open yourself up to:
- Malicious Hotspots – Sometimes you’re going to find more than one public hotspots at a location. If you accidentally connect with the wrong hotspot, your entire data can be accessed. Cybercriminals often use this method to copy all your data without you even realizing.
- Malware – Cybercriminals can distribute malware to your system using many ways. A public hotspot is one of the most common ones. Malware are programs that can get in your system and do all sorts of harm. They can even steal your information and data.
- MitM Attacks – Man in the Middle (MitM) attacks are one of the most dangerous. Because you are unlikely to realize they have occurred. How they work is, when you are connected to the internet, data is transferred. Though it is between your device and the website you are browsing, someone can eavesdrop. By getting in the middle of your connection with the website. This way everything you do can be monitored.
These are some of the most common security risks. There are many others that you should research on. But this blog is focused on providing you with ways to increase your security.
8 Tips How to Avoid Public Wi-Fi Security Risks
Learning how to avoid public Wi-Fi security risks is one of the most important things you need to do. They are not difficult to do. So you don’t have to be a techy to make these changes to your security. Most of these security measures should be applied even if you’re not using a public hotspot. Since cyber attacks can happen from any network. They can even happen while you’re browsing at home.
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- Network Names
- Use Higher Authentication Protocols
- Avoid Connecting Automatically
- Turn Off Sharing
Getting an anti-virus is something you should be doing even if you’re not using public hotspots. Anti-viruses are built to detect unwanted software that attaches themselves to your system. Additionally, they can perform regular checks for your system. Then they quarantine the virus from spreading. But be sure to get your anti-virus from a trusted source. Many times, malicious software are hidden in the anti-virus software itself. So try to get your software from the manufacturer’s own website or a store.
Mot operating systems like Windows and Mac have their own firewall programs. These are your system’s built-in internet security protection programs. Sometimes, your anti-virus can disable the firewall. If this happens, enable the firewall in the settings menu. An easy search can give you a step-by-step guide to re-enable your firewall.
#3. Network Names
Sometimes cybercriminals can create fake wireless networks. They run these fake networks in public areas. Usually, these fake networks have similar names to the original networks. If you connect to a fake network, you can give them access to all your data. So if you are connecting to a public hotspot, be sure to ask the name of the network first.
#4. Use Higher Authentication Protocols
Wherever possible, it is advisable to use two-factor security protocols. The most common use of two-factor security is the One-Time Password (OTP) used for banking purposes. With these, even if someone gets hold of your password, they are unlikely to complete a transaction.
HTTPS is an encryption that makes it difficult for cybercriminals to track you. Most websites use HTTPS but you can create your own encryption as well. in fact, it is recommended that you do. There are HTTPS encryption browser extensions you can download. They can help secure your device and you can use public hotspots better.
#6. Avoid Connecting Automatically
Usually, we leave this setting on in our devices. So they can automatically connect with hotspots anywhere. But this leaves s open to attacks. Your device could automatically connect to a malicious hotspot. That would leave your device security vulnerable.
When using public hotspots, it’s advisable to use VPNs. They are a secure way to browse. They work by routing your data transfer through a secure network. So even if you’re using a public hotspot they can secure your browsing. You can download VPNs as browser extensions and also as separate programs.
#8. Turn Off Sharing
Sharing is a feature that lets you share files between all the computers in the network. Usually, this is not a security risk when you’re using a private network. But leaving this feature on over a public network can be a big risk. Anyone on the network will be able to access your files.
Most service providers are also taking the issue of internet security seriously. That is why some of them even offer internet security programs like anti-viruses as part of their packages. Information on these special promotions should be available with customer service representatives, like Cox Customer Care. However, security on public hotspots is your own responsibility. You need to be prepared for the risks. Using the tips in this guide, you can enjoy safer browsing, especially over public hotspots.