Protect your data with a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

23rd Nov 2020

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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.

Daniel said:

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Always double check the Wi-Fi name

Always double check the Wi-Fi name

When connecting to a Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or other public space, always double-check the network name with a member of the staff. Remember, hackers might create fake Wi-Fi hotspots using names that look trustworthy. The real Wi-Fi name might be something you can read on a sign or on your receipt. Put a strong password on any account you create to sign-up.

Avoid visiting sensitive websites

Avoid visiting sensitive websites

On public Wi-Fi, avoid visiting sensitive websites (like healthcare or insurance) and logging into your social accounts. Public Wi-Fi is best for browsing the internet only so never use it to perform any banking transactions.

Set up a two-factor authentication

Set up a two-factor authentication

If you must log into private accounts, make sure you have set up two-factor authentication. This is a security process in which users provide two different authentication factors to verify themselves. To turn on two-factor authentication, you can usually do this by going into the Password and Security setting in your mobile device, where you will be given the option to add a phone number or other form of authentication.

Enable your firewall

Enable your firewall

Most operating systems have a built-in firewall, which keeps outsiders from going through your computer’s data. Although it won’t provide complete protection from hackers, the firewall is useful if combined with other security tools. Make sure your firewall is turned on and updated regularly, you can usually do this by going to Security and Privacy on your computer.

Turn off Wi-Fi when not using it

Turn off Wi-Fi when not using it

Remember to turn off the Wi-Fi function on your device when you are not using it in public. It will spare you from the unwanted or accidental connections with Wi-Fi networks surrounding you and save battery as your phone won’t constantly be sniffing for Wi-Fi networks to access.

Use a VPN

Use a VPN

The best way to make sure you are not hacked when using public Wi-Fi, is to ensure you are protected in the first place. This can be done by installing a VPN which gives you online privacy from a public internet by securely encrypting your connection to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot. The private server of your VPN handles your connection to the internet and takes care of securing it on your behalf. With a VPN in place, your device will be almost impossible to hack and no sensitive data can get into the hands of criminals.

Our Founder, Charlie Shakeshaft, demonstrates below how easy it is to use a VPN on your phone

Introductory VPN Offer

IPS members should enjoy the protection and peace of mind that comes from using a VPN, so we have teamed up with NordVPN to offer you a significant saving on a 2-year plan – £65.45 + VAT or just 9p a day.

All you have to do is use the code IPS to claim your deal at the NordVPN checkout.

We have a limited number available so make sure you don’t miss out by clicking the link below.

More about NordVPN

NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider, used by over 14 million internet users worldwide. NordVPN provides double VPN encryption, malware blocking, and Onion Over VPN. The product is very user-friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries worldwide, and is P2P-friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is the zero-log policy. For more information:


*IPS make a small commission per transaction, at no extra cost to members, and want you to be aware of that. The choice to find out more remains entirely at your discretion.

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