Free public Wi-Fi networks from airports or hotels are surely convenient for travellers.
However, what we fail to understand is that they come with many serious security threats. For example, if you send information or do financial transactions through a public network, someone else might also be able to track your private data.
And that’s not all.
There are some other risks associated with using public Wi-Fi too.
The risks of using free public Wi-Fi
To stay safe while using a free public Wi-Fi network, you should be aware of the potential threats it possesses so that you can always keep your guard up.
The primary goal of identity theft is to illegally acquire someone else’s data in the form of financial information, login credentials, pictures, and personal data.
Cybercriminals use public Wi-Fi networks to steal the private information of the users and commit financial fraud. When they have enough information about the individual, they can apply for loans, make purchases, withdraw money, and commit many other crimes in their name.
Even if the hackers don’t get full access to the data available on your device, they can still intercept the information that you send over the internet.
The hackers trick victims into connecting to what they believe is an authorised network because of the reputable name.
However, they make the users connect to “Evil Twin”, a rogue hotspot, from which the hackers can access all of their sensitive information.
Let’s assume you’re staying at River Hotel and want to connect to its Wi-Fi. You might think that you’ve selected the right option when you click “Riverr Hotel”. Instead, you’ve connected to a rogue hotspot set up by the hackers.
The illegal monitoring of data that is transmitted between different devices is known as packet sniffing.
Any person connected to the same Wi-Fi network as you are can keep track of what you send and receive on the internet.
When you use a free public Wi-Fi that doesn’t have any protection, you not only risk the private information being stolen but also having it modified. For example, your bank might receive a message from you once it is altered by the cybercriminals to serve their purpose.
Professional criminals only require a few special tools and applications such as packet analyzer or Packet Sniffer for sniffing the data however the actual key to their success is the carelessness of the user.
Every website doesn’t offer encryption features to its users. You can find out by the prefix whether the site is encrypted or not. If it starts with HTTPS, it means it is an encrypted site. However, if the web address only contains HTTP, the site isn’t encrypted.
When you connect to a free public Wi-Fi, anyone who is in the range of your device can intercept the data you send and receive online.
If you’re sending or receiving the data on an unencrypted website, it’ll be fully readable by hackers.
Malware distribution exists in many forms including viruses, adware, worms, ransomware, and Trojan horses.
Someone using the same public Wi-Fi as you can plant malware on your device if it isn’t properly protected. What’s more, the Wi-Fi provider itself can use the hotspot to infect your device with any of these threats.
This could be as simple as placing ads on every website that you use. These ads would disappear once you disconnect from the public Wi-Fi and return to your office or home connection. However, in some serious cases, the planted malware can stay permanently on your device.
Cyber attacks on businesses
Travellers, especially digital nomads, work remotely and might connect to a free public Wi-Fi to check their emails or perform other tasks that require internet connectivity.
While the majority of the businesses have tight security measures to reduce the chances of hacking, there are still risks involved with using a public network.
Stay secure on public Wi-Fi with a VPN
So, the next time you find yourself logging on to public Wi-Fi while traveling abroad and you want to minimise the security risks, you should use a secured VPN like NordVPN on public Wi-Fi. It works by hiding your IP address and encrypting all the information you send online.