Why using a public Wi-Fi connection can be risky?

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Public Wi-Fi is everywhere and we use them liberally because they are convenient and free. Everyone must have accessed them at airports or cafes. But the concern is, “How safe are they?” We all use it without thinking much yet we are unaware of the risks they come with.

On a public Wi-Fi, whatever information you are accessing via your computer or smartphone, it can be misused by anyone on that network. This is why, hackers increasingly use public network to get access to your personal computer and finally to get access your personal data such as passwords, usernames and more.

The 3 potential risks involved in using public Wi-Fi are –

  1. Wi-Fi sniffing: This method is used by hackers to analyze large amount of data exchanged on a particular network. Many hackers use public Wi-Fi to monitor network traffic. They do so in order to extract as many useful data details as they can. The sad part is that there are no strict laws against data sniffing.
  2. Malware: There is potential risk of malware on a public network. There might be other users who can release malware on a public Wi-Fi. If you are using any cloud-based service, there are more chances of that malware slipping into your device. This way, hackers can steal your personal information and get complete access of your device.
  3. Unsafe websites and networks: You can be in trouble if you are accessing information through an encrypted website, which is not an HTTPS website, or you are accidently accessing a network that is meant for snooping. The man-in-the-middle hackers design such network traps to get access of all information routed through your device.

How to protect yourself on public Wi-Fi?

  • Abstain yourself from purchasing anything over public network. Especially do not put your bank details or credit card details while purchasing something as it can go into wrong hands
  • Use public Wi-Fi for web browsing or using YouTube or Netflix but never for personal use
  • Change your mobile settings on public network as there as many apps that keep transmitting data in the background. You can prevent them by sharing data. Simply go to your Wi-Fi settings and toggle the option ‘limit background data’
  • Sometimes hackers set up their own Wi-Fi network in cafes or restaurants. Change the device settings so that they do not connect automatically to any network
  • The ultimate protection for your personal data over a public Wi-Fi is a VPN service. A Virtual Private Network works as a private tunnel that encrypts data that is transmitted through your device so that no hacker can misuse it
  • Treat every Wi-Fi with suspicion. Do no connect to any unknown or unrecognizable wireless point, it can be a bogus network set up by cyber criminals
  • Avoid specific websites like banking, credit card or those where you store your financial information. These details are sensitive and can get into wrong hands
  • If you have to use public Wi-Fi under some circumstances, avoid using it on your laptop. Use it on mobile phone instead
  • It is advisable to protect your device against anti-malware solutions and update it regularly.

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