Public Wifi can be said to be a convenient and effortless way to surf anywhere on someone else’s expense. Public WiFi is available nearly everywhere you go: coffee shops, airports, hotels, schools and even out on the streets. No one can deny how convenient it is, but should you really be using it?
Public WiFi, also known as a public “hotspot”, is a physical location where you can obtain internet access using WiFi technology via a wireless local area network (WLAN) using a router connected to an internet service provider. While this seems amazing to everyone who does not want to waste their mobile data, This WiFi is actually the easiest spot for others to see your information.
We would be listing 8 ways you can easily get hacked while using a public WiFi.
Encryption is the key to keeping your personal information secure online. It essentially scrambles the information you send over the internet, turning it into a code in order to avoid it being accessed by unwanted third parties. An encrypted website protects the information you send to and from that site only. A secure wireless network encrypts all the information you send, using that same network. Sending your information to sites that are not fully encrypted and using mobile apps that require personal or financial information, is a very risky game that you do not want to play.
Bad WiFi setup
Given all of the advancements in information technology and increasingly efficient methods of hacking, simple user errors are one of the most common threats on public WiFi networks. There is no way to guarantee that the business owners or employees who set up the network have taken every measure to ensure data protection. It’s not uncommon for employees to simply leave the default user and password on a WiFi router, making the network ridiculously easy to access.
One of the most common threats on public networks is called a Man in the Middle (MitM) attack. Essentially, a MitM attack is kind of like eavesdropping. When a computer or phone connects to the internet, data is sent from that device to a service or website. That’s when various vulnerabilities can allow a third party to get in the middle of these transmissions and see them all.
Snooping & sniffing
Wi-Fi snooping and sniffing is exactly what it sounds like. Using special software kits and devices that can be purchased online, cyber criminals can easily eavesdrop on Wi-Fi signals. This technique allows the attackers to access everything you do online entire web pages you’ve visited and any information typed into them, your login credentials for any online account etc, enabling them to use your virtual identity as they please.
Thanks to security holes and weakness found in operating systems and software programs, attackers can slip malware into your computer without you even knowing about it. Exploit these vulnerabilities is quite easy, by writing code to target a specific vulnerability, then injecting the malware onto your device. If you’ve never had a malware attack, let’s just say you don’t want to put yourself at risk for one.
Rogue access points
Rogue access points trick victims into connecting to what appears to be a legitimate network, using a benign-sounding name, such as a name of a business or a hotel you are staying it. As anyone setting up a network can name it whatever they want, you may search and connect to a WiFi network called “MCDonald”, when the official, legitimate network is actually “McDonald”. You will never know the difference and may fall head first into a hacker’s trap.
Packet sniffers are relatively small computer programs that can monitor the traffic on a network. These programs can be used in a harmless way, merely for collecting data about traffic. At worst, however, they can also be yet another loophole through which hackers can slither in to see your info.
Ad hocs are P2P networks, connecting two computers directly. They normally use the same channels as wireless connections. When using a public Wi-Fi network, your computer will most likely be set to discover new networks. This way, hackers can connect directly to your phone or computer if they are within range, as the channels are open to new connections. It’s enough for one end of the WiFi network to allow ad hoc connections to give hackers access to the entire network.
So, without a wariness about how to protect our information when going online, we are all just sitting ducks, waiting to be taken advantage of.
Polina works as marketing manager for a year now and loves searching for interesting topics for you:)