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3 Risks of public WiFi and how to protect yourself

Wifi is a necessity, right?

With so many venues and mobile phone companies touting public hotspots, it’s hard not to connect for free.

Society has become used to public wifi and the convenience it presents – disregarding the hazards that could come with using these connections.
Truthfully, the risks are higher than you may think. With hackers counting on people using unprotected networks, knowing the steps you can take to protect yourself is key.

Here are a few risks to consider:

#1. Unencrypted networks
When you use an encrypted network, the information sent uses a secret code to prevent anyone else from seeing what you do or the messages you send. Unencrypted networks are open and vulnerable to hackers and anyone else on the network that knows how to intercept your information.

#2. Malware
Malware is distributed through software and downloads without your knowledge. Software vulnerabilities are a playground for hackers who put malware onto your device. They infiltrate your system through a security hole they find while you are online.

#3. Malicious hotspots
Technology helps hackers come up with new and inventive ways to access your information. When connecting to public wifi, pay careful attention to the name of the network. One of the easiest ways hackers can get into your system is by setting up a dummy network that is close to the one you are searching for.

If you aren’t careful, you could unknowingly connect to theirs, creating a vulnerability in your system.

Does this include mobile hotspots? Absolutely! Just because a hotspot is sponsored by your phone provider does not decrease the potential of a breach. That’s why it’s called PUBLIC.

Are these risks really that bad?

What’s a little snooping? You may ask yourself… Well, it could cost you.

Cybercriminals love public wifi because they have tools that assist in eavesdropping and accessing whatever you do online. If you access your bank accounts, they may be able to see your passwords, how much money you have and other information.

This leaves the door open for identity theft or something worse. One of the biggest myths about public wifi is that your information can’t be accessed – even when most networks give a disclaimer.

How to stay safe on public wifi?

Even though there are risks, there are ways to stay safe on public wifi.

The first thing you should do is disable file sharing and only visit sites using HTTPS. This will give you more protection. Additionally, you should log out of any account you have used when you are done. If you have access to a secure VPN, it would be best to use it.

You should also consider what NOT to do. Many people are used to auto-connecting to their networks. Avoid doing this on public wifi. You should also avoid accessing any apps that contain sensitive information. Go to their HTTPS-enabled site instead. If you are not using your Bluetooth or wifi, make sure to turn it off. Try to stay away from networks that are not password protected, or access websites that are financially related.

These steps will keep your phone or computer safe while attempting to use public wifi. Being proactive and doing your due diligence in following safety protocols will always keep you on the positive side of things. It’s important to pay attention.

Getting malware or a worm on your system, or having your financial and personal information accessed for the wrong reasons can result in identity theft, loss of income, and more.