Public WiFi is great as it offers a free way to get online when mobile, right? Well, it does offer a free way to get online, but it may not be all that great if you are not protected by a VPN. In fact, it could end up being the worst thing you do, and it may cost a great deal more than what you might have paid had you used a data plan. So why should you always protect yourself on public WiFi?
Who offers public WiFi?
You might come across public WiFi in coffee shops, airports, hotels, shopping malls and such places. Places such as these allow you to connect to hotspots offered by them, so you do not have to use a data plan.
You simply connect to the network and then browse the internet, as you would normally do. You might check your email or your bank account online. While it might sound harmless, you have no idea how secure the network is, and your data might be at risk. Cyber experts are now warning people not to check bank accounts and give out credit card details online when using public WiFi.
Malicious hotspots of hackers
You also do not know if the network you are connecting to is really offered by the hotel or shopping mall, as hackers can set up false networks. This is just one example of why you should protect yourself when connecting to public WiFi.
Hackers can trick you into thinking you are making a connection to a legitimate public WiFi connection as they set up a network that sounds reputable. For instance, if you are in Starbucks enjoying a coffee and see a network called “Coffeeinternet” you might automatically assume it is safe to use, as it is the Starbucks network.
In fact, it could be a spoof network set up by hackers. If you use it and do not have protection on your device, the hackers can gain access to your personal or professional information.
Cybercriminals and hackers can make use of software kits that allow them to snoop on WiFi signals.
Using the software, they can access and see everything you do online. This includes the web pages you have visited, including user names, passwords, and information you filled in. Using this information, they can hijack your accounts and even steal your identity.
Man in the middle
Man in the middle attacks, aka, MitM attacks are widespread threats. A man in the middle attack is eavesdropping on your connection. These attacks are also common when used in applications when hackers impersonate one of the parties.
When you connect to a network, your device connects to the internet to send and receive data. The man in the middle can get in-between and see data sent from the device before reaching its destination.
Cybercriminals can then use the information collected as they see fit. They can steal bank account details along with passwords and user names.
Use a VPN to protect yourself when using public WiFi
We are not saying that you cannot use public WiFi when out. What we are saying is that care should be taken and protection put into place.
One way of putting protection in place is to use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network will provide you with a way of masking your IP address and placing a virtual encrypted tunnel between the internet and your device. It does via an app that you install on your device and leave running in the background after connecting to a server.
Once connected to a server, any data you send using the public WiFi is encrypted, which means hackers cannot read it. You also take on an alternate IP address, so no one knows your true location, and you remain secure.