Did you know that free public Wi-Fi is a relatively easy way for hackers to steal personal information?
It has become normal to connect to a public Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop, supermarket or airport (even if you did that a little less in 2020), but you should consider your appetite for risk before accessing online banking or any other sensitive applications using that Wi-Fi. If you are sharing data using an unencrypted public network, it’s possible for a hacker to intercept your message or use malicious software that helps them steal information such as passwords or credit card details.
One way of protecting your personal information in this situation is to turn on your very own Virtual Private Network (VPN).
To help our members learn more about these risks, and take the necessary steps to feel confident about protecting their data, IPS recently spoke with Daniel Markuson. Daniel is a digital privacy expert at global leaders NordVPN, and discussed the risks posed by anonymous hackers exploiting unsecure public Wi-Fi.
“With sometimes hundreds, or even thousands of people using a public Wi-Fi network at the same time, it is the perfect place for a hacker to look for their next victim without being noticed. They claim it only takes a couple of minutes to start looking at confidential information sent from a device connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi. The two major weaknesses that can make any public Wi-Fi spot vulnerable are:
– Poor router configuration by the store or retailer
– Lack of strong passwords set by a user to create the in store Wi-Fi account
Unfortunately, hackers steal information and victims don’t realise it’s happened for a significant period of time. This is why it is important to know what to look out for and how you can protect yourself”.
Below we list the four most common types of cyberattacks launched on an unsecure public Wi-Fi according to NordVPN – and below that the steps members should take to prevent them happening to you.
- Man-in-the-middle attacks. When a mobile device makes a connection to the internet, the data travels to a specific service or website. An attacker can intercept and modify that data and the information on the device is then no longer private.
- Evil twin attacks. These happen when cybercriminals create fake Wi-Fi hotspots. When a device connects to a rogue access point controlled by a hacker, all the communications will fall into their hands.
- Malware injections. When you connect to an unsecured network, malicious code can be slipped onto your device. Once the malware infects the device, it can break down the system security and give the hackers complete freedom to manipulate your personal files – whenever they want to.
- Snooping and sniffing. Cybercriminals can sometimes see all data passing through the network and access what you do online using specialist sniffing software. This can include viewing your browsing history, capturing your login details, and breaking into your online accounts to steal sensitive information or even money.
A survey by cyber security company Bullguard in 2019, showed that 79% of public Wi-Fi users take significant risks when choosing their Wi-Fi connection. Daniel advises that “it is better to stay away from public Wi-Fi and use your mobile data allowance instead where possible”. This is becoming easier now that data allowances are larger than ever at a lower cost than ever. However, if there’s no other choice, here are some useful tips on what you should do to protect your devices and the information they hold.