A free and strong Wi-Fi signal looks too good to resist these days. It’s extremely convenient to get some work done or run a quick check on your email and social media updates while enjoying your latte at a coffee shop or while waiting for your flight in an airport lounge.
However, public Wi-Fi has a serious weakness: it is extremely vulnerable to hacking. Cybercriminals find numerous ways to exploit Wi-Fi hotspots to access your personal data, and some of those methods are rather effortless. From ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks to Wi-Fi sniffing, snoopers can intercept your Internet traffic and steal your social media or banking passwords, files and photos by employing various hacking methods.
This is why you need to be extremely cautious before joining a hotspot. Here are 5 key tips that will help you stay on the safe side while enjoying the convenience of Wi-Fi hotspots.
Don’t get caught in a Wi-Phishing trap
Whenever you see two Wi-Fi network names that look nearly the same, hold yourself back from connecting immediately – chances are, it’s a trap. Using a technique dubbed Wi-Phishing, hackers attempt to trick you into connecting to a bogus network and steal your data.
Cybercriminals might even take an extra step: they create a fake authentication interface that looks almost exactly the same as the one of the legitimate network. This is why you should always be cautious. For example, a Wi-Fi network name Coffe_Shop versus Coffee_Shop looks fishy. Even though that strong signal is tempting, getting your personal data compromised is a thing you least want to do. The best thing you can do here is to ask an employee about the details of their Wi-Fi access and join the official network only.
Avoid logging into sensitive accounts
Checking email, logging into social media accounts, doing online banking – all of this puts your data at risk. Hackers can monitor your Internet traffic by using a method called Wi-Fi sniffing, so make sure to avoid sensitive communication going through a public Wi-Fi connection. Never send your personal data, such as IDs, Social Security number, banking details, etc. via email or instant messages when you’re connected to an unsecured public network – such behavior is extremely risky and may mean handing your sensitive data straight to hackers.
Shop online, but from home
Online stores let you shop anywhere anytime, as long as you have an Internet connection. It sure is exciting. However, you should follow at least one rule: make your online purchases only when you’re connected to a secure network, for example, the one you have at home. The reason behind this is simply – keeping your sensitive information safe and secure. As online shopping involves a decent amount of personal data (including banking info for making transactions!), shoppers are the target of cyber criminals.
Disable file sharing
You can’t control who you are sharing a public network with, but you can control file sharing options on your device. Whether you are using Windows or macOS, make sure to keep snoopers away by turning off file sharing, so your private folders aren’t accessible to the public. Also, check your firewall to make sure it is enabled.
If you’re using macOS or iOS, make an extra step to protect your privacy. Head to Settings and set AirDrop to ‘contacts-only.’
Consider using a VPN app
If you don’t have a VPN app yet, you definitely need to use one whenever you decide to hop on a public hotspot. VPN stands for virtual private network. It routes your Internet traffic through a remote VPN server, encrypting it all the way. Simply speaking, it creates a private and secure tunnel for your online communications to travel between your device and a server.
With VPN enabled, you can shop, make banking transactions, log in to your email and social media accounts without a worry of falling into a data loss or identity theft nightmare. There are various VPN service providers in the market, so make sure to choose a trustworthy one, such as NordVPN. It offers both military-grade encryption and advanced security features, such as protection from malware.
So whenever you’re about to join a public Wi-Fi network, keep these tips in mind and have VPN enabled to protect yourself from unwanted online snoopers.