We have all done it, sat in a café or hotel and checked our social media, bank balance and emails. It’s free internet, it’s easy and convenient, but have you ever considered the risks?
There are a few problems with using public wi-fi and you should be very careful what you use it for.
Anyone can connect to a public Wi-Fi network. It could be full of compromised machines, devices or the hotspot itself could be malicious.
At home, you can’t see what your neighbour is doing on their wireless internet connection and vice-versa. This is because your wireless traffic is encrypted between your laptop/tablet/phone and your wireless router. It is encrypted with your Wi-Fi password. When you connect to a public network other people can see what web pages you are visiting. More often than not everyone who connects to the network is using the same password. They could see what you are typing into web forms and even see what encrypted websites you are visiting.
Think about having a very private conversation with a friend in a restaurant. You would use hushed tones and pause when the waiting staff approached, you would be aware of people being able to eavesdrop on what you were saying. The difference is you can’t whisper online.
It’s not all bad news. if you are on an encrypted website, for example online banking they can see which bank you are connected too, but they can’t see what you are typing in. If you are on an un-encrypted website i.e. a webpage pretending to be your online bank they can see everything!
Protect yourself. If you really need to access sensitive information over a public Wi-Fi network check that you are connected to an encrypted web page – HTTPS. That said it is still possible to hijack your connection and steal your information – Is it really worth the risk?
Compromised devices (Computers with virus or malware) may also be connected to the public Wi-Fi. If you are using your laptop make sure you chose the “Public Network” option in Windows not “Home” or “Work” option. This helps to lock down the connection and prevents Windows sharing files with other machines on the network.
Be aware of your surroundings. When using your laptop in a public place watch out for “Shoulder Surfers” they might be watching you type in your password.
The other thing to consider – is the Public Hot Spot itself legitimate? It is possible, however improbable (so it must be true) that someone could have created the hotspot with malicious intentions.
Our advice – When connected to public Wifi avoid accessing websites where you need to enter usernames and passwords.
If you travel regularly it may be worth investing in a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This basically creates a network within a network and keeps everything you do Private. Speak to us if you need further advice or guidance.