Public Wi-Fi hotspots are usually unsecured, since they are intended for users to easily connect to them. Information sent through unsecured wireless transmissions are usually not encrypted, so it’s easy for the data to be intercepted.
Here are some of the risks you’re taking when connected to a public wi-fi hotspot:
- Someone who wants to steal information from unsuspecting users could easily set up a rogue Wi-Fi network that masquerades as a legitimate network, for example they could create a network called “Starbucks Free Wifi” near a Starbucks branch, tricking customers to connect to this fake network.
- A hacker could intercept or modify communication between two computers. This is called Man-In-The-Middle attack.
- A hacker could also use a tool called Packet Sniffers to intercept any information sent over unsecured Wi-Fi.
With these risks in mind, be very careful about using public Wi-Fi:
- Avoid connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi in favour of a secured home or office network.
- When using a free Wi-Fi hotspot, confirm the Wi-Fi network name with the business owner (e.g. the café where you’re connecting to Wi-Fi).
- Don’t allow your device to automatically connect to wireless networks. Always turn off the Wi-Fi on your device after use, to prevent connecting to unknown networks automatically.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi when transmitting sensitive information such as online banking, online shopping or logging into social media accounts.
- Use https:// instead of http:// when accessing your email or making an online payment. This ensures that your communication is secure and your data will not be easily intercepted.