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Public Wi-Fi networks are indispensable in our everyday online presence. Whether it’s a hotel, an airport, or a local coffee shop, every business willingly offers it to you.
Although we can’t deny the apparent convenience, open WiFi is something you should suss out. In the previous newsletter, we have covered the two most popular risks: Rogue Networks and Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attacks.
While Rogue Networks allow malicious attackers to access your data via unauthorized operations, MITM attacks are pretty much like eavesdropping. But there are more to come. Let's touch upon other dangers of public WiFi you must be aware of.
1. Snooping and sniffing.
These terms mean that an attacker uses special software to eavesdrop on the WiFi signal. It basically helps the hacker see everything you do, or own on the net. This includes stealing login credentials, which leads to hijacking your account.
Spoofing in an email context means sending an email pretending to be someone else. Also, if we’re talking about GPS spoofing, it allows falsifying the location info on your smart devices. Basically, you can make it look like you are flying back and forth between Sydney and Tokyo in 2 hours.
In Jacksonville, Florida, a woman got a call from the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) hotline. The caller told her that she had won a $9,000 grant from the federal government, and all she had to do was either send $250 to him via Western Union or give him the confirmation code for a $250 iTunes gift card (I bet, you know the drill). The caller also asked for some personal details. Fortunately, the woman became suspicious and hung up.
2. Malware Distribution.
Hackers often use unsecured networks to send malware. As a result, you have infected software on your personal devices. In other words, hackers not only get access to all data on your PC or device, but they can also manipulate it.
You might be surprised that recently COVID19 has been involved in a malware attack. If the global pandemic wasn’t enough, fear of the disease has been widely exploited by cybercriminals. CovidLock ransomware is an example. This type of ransomware injects malicious files promising to offer more information about the disease.
Of course, once installed, CovidLock offers no exclusive details about the Coronavirus. Instead, it encrypts data from Android devices and denies data access to victims. To get it back, you must pay a ransom of USD $100 per device (please, don’t use it as a startup idea).
Sooo... how should one avoid these risks?
When you venture out to a café or any public place with free WiFi, make sure you take the following precautions: (Ideally, do not use public Wi-fi unless needed)
Use a VPN. Besides various benefits a VPN gets you, it encrypts the information that you send across the Internet. Thus, it makes it unreadable to anyone who intercepts your traffic. So PLEASE use a VPN, it can save you in so many ways.
Use an SSL Connection. If you don’t have VPN access, SSL connections do a great job at encrypting your data.
Turn Off Sharing. When browsing via a public hotspot, you don’t want to share any files. For the unaware, a sharing function is turned on by default. But you can easily disable it using your control panel or selecting “public” on Windows.
The Bottom Line
In our short series of newsletters, we have brought up the major dangers that public WiFi entails. However, there is still a huge number of risks that go along with such networks.
As the security of public WiFi is lax or non-existent, you should always double-check whether your information is safe.
The best way to do it is to use a VPN. Among other benefits, it helps you protect your privacy and security while browsing via public access points. Stay safe, and please download a VPN.