Free WiFi is great, just log on to the nearest one and you can use the internet free of charge and save your data. You get the internet free and everyone likes getting something for nothing. However, checking your bank balance or chatting on Facebook with friends might end up costing you more than you think. If you are hacked, you could be financially crippled or it could end up costing you your identity.
Who is behind the WiFi you are connecting to is never given any thought. You visit Joe Blogs café and see a WiFi hotspot called JBlogs and immediately think it belongs to the café. It might, but it also might be a spoof hotspot set up by a hacker. Even if you connect to the right hotspot, most public WiFi lacks strong passwords, if a password has even been used.
Hackers and cybercriminals can gain access and infiltrate your device on public WiFi, surprisingly quite easy, so is there a way to remain safe when using free hotspots?
Check the Network Thoroughly
If you must use free public WiFi, make sure you only connect to well-known networks. We mean networks from companies and establishments you recognise, such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King etc.
Of course, you should check the name of the network very carefully before connecting as hackers can set up networks with names that are very similar. If you connect to such a network the hacker can see everything you do online, including websites you visit, emails you send, what you chat about and any user names and passwords you type.
For instance, Burger King might have a hotspot simply called Burger_King. However, a hacker could set one up to look like the genuine one with the name of Burgger_Kinng. If you are distracted or rushed, you could easily connect to a fake network with a name sounding very similar to the genuine one.
If in doubt about the WiFi, check with the staff of the establishment or look for information about the name of the network in the restaurant or café.
Make Sure Your Firewall is Turned On
You should always make sure that you have a firewall installed on any device you use to connect to the internet and it is turned on. It can pay to check it is turned on regularly as some malware or viruses can turn it off.
While the firewall will not offer complete protection, it will offer some. It can go a long way to stop hackers from gaining external access to your device when using public WiFi.
It can also help to prevent your device from becoming infected with malware as it watches the data packets coming from the network to ensure they are safe.
Remain Secure with a VPN
One of the best security tools for using public WiFi is a VPN. A Virtual Private Network can be installed on your device via a small app.
Once downloaded the app is launched on the device and left running in the background. You do not even know it is there, but it does a lot for your security on public WiFi.
There are free and paid VPNs, however, when it comes to your safety and security online, it is worth paying out a few dollars per month with one of the more reputable providers.
Mask Your Own IP Address
With your own IP address masked, no one can see your actual location or gain any information about you.
Your data remains safe thanks to encryption
When connected to a server you are placed behind a virtual encrypted tunnel. With AES 256-bit encryption in place, any data you send over the connection is impossible to read.
If hackers cannot read this information there is nothing for them to steal and your personal details remain your own.
Paid VPN providers generally offer a range of security features in apps. These include a Kill Switch to ensure no data bypasses the encrypted tunnel if the server connection is lost. Plans also generally include DNS leak protection to stop leaking of personal details. Some providers may also include malware and ad blocking software in their apps.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
It is also a good idea to enable two-factor authentication for accounts. Many apps offer this as an added form of security.
With 2FA, you have to use a unique code sent to you via a text message or app on your mobile phone after you enter your user name and password. As you are the only one with access to your mobile phone if hackers were to get your username and password, they would not be able to get the authentication code.
It goes without saying that you should be very careful about what you do on the internet when going online through a WiFi hotspot.
You should never access online banking through public WiFi. Even with security measures in place, unless you have VPN encryption, it is risky entering your security details to access your account.
You should also avoid making purchases online through public WiFi. Again, giving out your bank account number, debit or credit card number can be a disaster. You could find very quickly you have been hacked when you visit the bank and find your account drained or a large amount of debt racked up on your credit card.
Also, avoid giving out personal details such as your phone number, address, email address, mother’s maiden name and age, among other things. Any of these can be used by hackers to steal your identity.
Following the above tips is the best way not to get hacked when browsing the internet on public WiFi.
In the end, you have quite a few solutions to protect yourself on Public Wifis. Just pick one and don’t get hacked never again.