Top 3 Things to Note When Getting on a “Free” Public Wi-Fi

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

free wifi dangerThe need for a stable internet connection has grown exponentially over the years, and it is fast becoming a necessity and not a need. The very act of peeking at your devices several times per day is almost as common as heading down to the store to grab a snack – not because you’re necessarily hungry, but because you want to and you can.

Whether it allows us to remain in touch with loved ones or clearing emails from work, there is no denying that the need for connectivity has shown no signs of slowing down. This is precisely why Wi-Fi is so sought after these days, more so when you are travelling. Yet, the dangers of tapping into an unsecured Wi-Fi connection is very real.

Below are Top 3 important things to take note of when you’re surfing around a Free Hotspot.

1) Realise that tapping into an unsecured connection leaves you open to eavesdropping

Most users jump on the notion of anything which is provided for free – especially free Wi-Fi. It’s easy to see how this can be true when we look at the number of people camping out at the coffee places or fast food restaurants to make use of such amenities. Students and working adults whip out their devices, latch on the first Wi-Fi connection they see and proceed blissfully with surfing the internet.

Yet, many seem to be unaware of the constant risk that they may open themselves up to. Hackers take the opportunity to exploit any vulnerabilities, and it is as easy as downloading an application to do the deed. With that simple app, they are then able to eavesdrop on data exchanged between your web browser and the web servers over the internet.

This may include getting access to your computer and devices, and taking control over your social media accounts or worse, get information on your personal details such as bank numbers and credit card numbers. What then, are the steps to ensure that we stay protected on such connections?

2) Verify that the hotspot is legitimate and make sure you turn off Wi-Fi capability on your devices if you don’t need it

Hackers have been known to create a hotspot solely for the purpose of collecting data from unsuspecting users. For instance, a legitimate Wi-Fi from a coffee outlet may have named their connection “NiceCoffee” while the hacker may use the name “N1ceCoffee” to trick users into believing that it is a legitimate hotspot.

Users who do not take necessary actions in verifying that their Wi-Fi connection is valid risk opening themselves up to a world of problems. They may be rerouted to fake websites impersonating legitimate ones such as banks, Facebook or even your email. As such, you can imagine the kind of data you are unwittingly giving out for free to someone who has the intention of using your personal information for their own personal gain.

Be sure to check with the shop on the correct connection to latch on to! Better still, make sure to get your device to forget all network they have ever attached itself to, shaking off any accidental connections to rogue networks.

3) Look for visual cues that you’re on Secure Wi-Fi

The best way to know you’re on a private connection is to look out for hotspots with a clear indication that they have subscribed to a “SecureWifi” certificate. Digicert, for instance, is authorised by the folks at Wi-Fi alliance to provide SecureWifi certificate.

So what does this really do for you as a user? What does it even look like? First of all, it helps you verify whether the public Wi-Fi service at your favourite coffee place is safe for usage. Users who choose to tap into Wi-Fi services provided may be redirected to another browser, for instance, and taken to the outlet’s official homepage.

There, they are able to read through the terms and conditions. Should they be satisfied and feel confident enough, they may then choose to proceed with making the connection. This additional step helps you become more conscientious, therefore avoiding unintentional connection with rogue networks as well as prevent any accidental transmittal of data to unwanted eyes.

Bottom line is, Wi-Fi connection offers users with the ease of transmitting and receiving information anywhere in the world and at any time you choose. Still, it helps to remain vigilant while attempting to connect to a Hotspot that you are not familiar with, ensuring that you will be protected from prying eyes and man-in-the-middle attacks.

sheha sidek

About Sheha Sidek

Sheha is a writer with interests in cyber security and finance. At Cyber Secure Asia, she hopes to be the bridge between the “bits and bytes” language and the everyday readers. 

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