How to Secure Your Data When Using a Public Wi-Fi Connection?

They say that it is easier to get access to free Wi-Fi than it is get free water and the statement holds weight. The internet has become such an essential part of our lives that we want to stay connected at all times. On top of that, finding a public Wi-Fi is like discovering a treasure chest. The only problem is, in today’s world the chest is booby trapped.

According to the findings from a 2017 Norton Wi-Fi risk report, 55% of the consumers surveyed said they wouldn’t think twice about joining and then sharing personal information over a Wi-Fi connection that offers strong signals. People even place free Wi-Fi connectivity as the top priority when picking a hotel, café, airline or transport hub during travel.

This love for free Wi-Fi has left most of us extremely vulnerable.

The need for data security

Despite the fact that cybercrime is costing trillions of dollars in damages around the world many users remain unaware of the threat. 60% of people feel their information is safe when using a public Wi-Fi connection yet 53% of them can’t tell the difference between a secure and unsecure connection. 87% of consumers have potentially put their personal information at risk on a public Wi-Fi.

Data leaks are becomingly exceedingly common. From verified sources like Internet Service Providers to hackers, there are many sources for user information to end up in the wrong hands. This is a considerable threat when it comes to public Wi-Fi because the administrators or any other person connected to the network can easily monitor a user’s data traffic and the information they enter online.

Public Wi-Fi: hubs for cybercrime

Any network connection where the credentials are easily available to everyone, is a treat for cybercriminals. These networks are so simple to gain access to that one survey found 25% respondents had used public Wi-Fi hotspots without permission and 8% had found their way in by hacking the password or guessing it. If normal users can do it with ease, how safe do you feel now?

When using a public Wi-Fi, user IP addresses are unsecure and can be identified by anyone with the right tools. With an IP address, a hacker or network administrator even, is able to pin point a user’s exact location. They can then keep track of which websites are being accessed by that IP address. With this information, it is not difficult to initiate attacks like man-in-the-middle or phishing etc. causing users to unsuspectingly hand over private data to a cybercriminal.

Type of threats to sensitive data

The level and diversity of threats is evolving continuously. In just the last few years, we have seen a multitude of attack types. Here are a few that are most common:

  • Phishing: The name is so because the process resembles fishing at a lake. A hacker leaves a bait in terms of random pop-up surveys or short forms that seem harmless. However, any information that a user enters, is sent directly to the attacker who can use it in any way they want,
  • Man-in-the-middle: This is a more recent iteration of phishing. It is most frequent on public Wi-Fi networks. A hacker, through the use of an IP address can pick out a site that users are visiting. They can then insert themselves in the middle by creating a dummy page that resembles the real website. This way, they are able to obtain all data that users think they are entering on an otherwise secure website,
  • Malware distribution: Hackers can also use network traffic to send viruses to the victim’s computer or device. This can be done through email attachments or even by creating random links on different websites.

Threats on a public Wi-Fi include but are not limited to the ones given above. It is crucial for users to stay aware of any suspicious activity while on the internet.

How to avoid data leaks on public networks

Prevention is always better than cure. This ancient proverb has been evergreen and remains applicable in this situation too. Here is a list of things users should avoid doing on a public Wi-Fi especially:

  • First and foremost, disable the auto connect feature under Wi-Fi settings in your devices,
  • Never access sensitive websites like online banking when using a public Wi-Fi,
  • Avoid downloading unverified software over a network that is not secure,
  • Look for the HTTPS sign before every website and try to stay away from those with unprotected domains,
  • Keep all your software updated and have an antivirus installed. For an overall protection, always browse under protection from a VPN to safeguard your internet privacy.

Conclusion

Virtual Private Networks mask user IP addresses and make all browsing traffic anonymous. Some of the top VPN services in the market like Ivacy VPN come with a built-in public Wi-Fi security feature so that no matter where you are, the level of protection for your device remains constant.

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