What Are the Real Risks of Public Wi-Fi?
Is using free wi-fi really that bad? What if you don’t do anything private on it? Are there risks of public wi-fi then? Here’s what you need to know.
Save on data or get some work done when the home wi-fi goes out at no charge. It seems too good to be true.
Free wi-fi has become the ultimate convenience of the 21st Century. But does the fact that it’s everywhere and so easy to use make us complacent? Is it really that dangerous to use public wi-fi? That’s what we need to explore.
What’s the Danger of Free Wi-Fi?
The fact that anyone in a store can get on it so easily should be the first red flag. Hackers seek out unsecured, unencrypted wi-fi networks. They know that with the right tools anyone can intercept data transmitted through that network.
They can see messages, bank account information, websites visited, passwords or any number of sensitive pieces of information. A skilled cybercriminal in 2019 can even use that same signal to inject malware into a person’s device to track them later and continue to gather information even after they’ve left the unsecured network.
It’s important to realize that the threat is real and the cost or inconvenience of going to the local library where they have encrypted wi-fi or just paying for the data is small in comparison to the cost of identity theft.
How to Protect Yourself from the Risks of Public Wi-Fi and Home Wi-Fi
- Be mindful – At this point, it may be a habit. When you walk into the gym or a hotel lobby, the first thing you do is hop on the free wi-fi. Is this really something you should do?
- Ask questions – Find out if the wi-fi is encrypted. If not, be very selective about what you do. As a general rule, you shouldn’t log into anything, not your email, your bank account, nothing.
- Check your firmware – Look at the firmware on all devices you use. Make sure you’ve installed all the updates. If you lease a modem from a company like Xfinity or Spectrum, then they’re responsible for updating that firmware. But otherwise, it’s your reasonability. And failing to do it will leave you vulnerable.
- Know that older devices are more vulnerable – So maybe you’re not the kind of person who gets each new iPhone as soon as it comes out. But you should know that the longer a device is on the market, the more opportunities criminals have to discover and exploit vulnerabilities. I recommend that people weigh security in their decision to upgrade their phone or not.
Ultimately, I recommend that you not use public wi-fi, period. It’s really not worth the risk. If you must, find an encrypted connection. To learn more about cybersecurity for business follow my blog.