Public Wi-Fi is everywhere. Whether we’re going for a coffee, catching a flight or using public transport we have the option to hook up to free Wi-Fi and go online. As tempting as it may be to access free Wi-Fi, this puts us in the direct firing line of the hackers.
Public Wi-Fi requires no authentication to establish a network connection, allowing hackers direct access to unsecured devices on the same unencrypted open network. This security risk opens us up to hackers stealing valuable info such as login passwords, credit card information and other personal and financial details.
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks can also be used to spread malware into devices connected to the network allowing hackers unrestricted access to everything on your device.
One of the most important ways to protect yourself while using a public Wi-Fi network is to use a VPN. A VPN encrypts your internet connection making it secure and protecting your privacy.
How Encryption Works
Encryption is the key to keeping your personal information secure online. Encryption scrambles the information you send over the internet into a code so that it’s not accessible to others. When using wireless networks, it’s best to send personal information only if it’s encrypted – either by an encrypted website or a secure Wi-Fi network. An encrypted website only protects the information you send, to and from that site. A secure wireless network encrypts all the information you send using that network.
How to Tell If a Website is Encrypted
If you send an email, share digital photos and videos, use social networks, or bank online, you’re sending personal information over the internet. The information you share is stored on a server – a powerful computer that collects and delivers content. Many websites, such as banking sites, use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server.
To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure). Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page you visit, not just when you sign in.
Don’t Assume a Wi-Fi Hotspot is Secure
Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send over the internet and are not secure.
If you use an unsecured network to log in to an unencrypted site – or a site that uses encryption only on the sign-in page – other users on the network can see exactly what you are accessing and sending. This means that they could hijack your session and log in as you. New hacking tools (which are readily available for free online) make this easy, even for users with limited technical know-how. Your personal information, private documents, contacts, family photos, and even your login credentials could be up for grabs.
A hacker will then use this information to impersonate you, scam your family and friends and test your username and password to gain access to other websites – including sites that store your financial information.
To find out how Metacompliance can help protect you online, click here